I will admit it. Anyone who has followed this column for a while knows that I am fixated on my image as a hip, urban designer.

In the past, I’ve written about cool parties, cool clothes, cool glasses, cool toys, cool architectural words, cool houses (even Koolhaas!) and cool camping. And slathered on these topics is a cathartic attempt to analyze and enhance my guise. Never do I feel the disconnect between the hip I want to be and the un-hip I really am more than at this time of year when my three sons start school (Johan is now a senior in high school; Nathanael is a sophomore; and Ronny Jr. is starting 8th grade). Reconnecting with the most important cultural influence in their lives clearly reiterates to them how “like, totally not cool” dad is.

Over the years, I have observed that all my boys have commenced thinking I am un-cool around adolescence. When a boy reaches puberty, his vocabulary reduces by 90% and half the sounds out of his mouth are grunts.

What would you like for breakfast? Idunno…
How was the first day of school? Gooo’…
Is your homework done? Ya…
I think you need new shoes. Mmm…
Is that all you can say? Uh-huh…

All these murmurs and brute groans send one very articulate message: Hey un-cool dad, would you please move to another country and just send me money?

With my first two sons, I tried very hard to prove I still had street cred. As a kid in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I actually used to rap and break-dance. But no matter how accomplished a person might have been, NO ONE is a good break dancer or rapper at 52. Neighbor kids continue to egg me on to make up raps on the fly, not because they like old school, but because they love the mortified reaction from my sons.

I think a parent hits his or her all-time lowest cool level around a kid’s 15th birthday. With driver licenses and subsequent freedom finally in sight, that was about the time Johan and Nathanael started comparing me to other dads and learned it was actually even cooler to have an un-cool dad than a cool one. They started bragging about how obsolete I was, like it was a competition among buddies. I remember once helping Johan carry a rather large project to school because he was on crutches. He would only “let me” do it if I promised to walk ten feet behind him, make no eye contact with anyone and place the project on the ground in the hallway so as to ensure I didn’t carry it into the classroom. A few years before this he still used to cuddle with me on the sofa. What happened to you, Johan???

At this point, I think I need to defend my parental hipness a bit. I mean, I am an architect, for god’s sake! Architects ARE cool. If they weren’t, why would so many actors play them in movies and TV? When I used to go to my kids’ grade school to talk about what I did, I brought nifty models, not spreadsheets or word documents! And how many dads have tattoos and play in rock bands (I’ve noticed that if I mention that our band covers a song that they like on the radio, they will automatically dismiss that very song as LAME)? They should be embracing my cred, not scorning it!

I made a lot of mistakes with Johan and Nathanael. I think my relationship with Ronny is much better for now. Some of my friends say it is because he is a late bloomer. I say it is because I have learned that saying nothing is the hippest thing I can possibly do. As a matter of fact, I would recommend parents go to mime school to learn to communicate with their adolescent kids. But miming is really only a last resort in case your cell phone loses its juice, making texting impossible… at the dinner table.

I have also learned to watch what I wear now. Dads, you can find the cash to buy new shorts that aren’t up to your thighs. Your kids don’t know who John Stockton is. As a matter of fact, I now know that the less I wear around my kids, the more tenuous my relationship with them becomes. For some reason, they just aren’t into seeing my sleek, shirtless upper body with only 30% body fat. In my vain attempt to relate visually, I have now resorted to buying my clothes at Old Navy. To be honest, I don’t think it has helped a bit and the clothes are really tight. I want my Dockers back!

So school starts this month, and my self esteem takes another dive. I keep hearing there is light at the end of the tunnel. Kids seem to appreciate their parents much more when they are away at college. I think I will need to ship Johan to Kuzbekistan Community College to reestablish my relevance in his life. In the meantime, get me out of these tight Euro-jeans because I can hardly breathe!