There are few phrases in the life of a parent as confounding as this one. The immediate reaction is, of course, annoyance. Your blood pressure pops, you grit your teeth, a scowl creeps across your face as you fight the impulse to mime back in a slightly too loud voice “DUHHH, DADDY!”
Congratulations, you have officially entered the category of Dumbshit Parent. It happens slowly, but rest assured it will happen. No matter how informed, cool, or tapped-in you think you are, when it comes to your own kids, you ain’t.
It happened to me recently. The exact circumstances have been safely purged from my brain thanks to another law of nature called Repression. But when it happened this last time, a surprising feeling washed over me that I couldn’t immediately explain: I felt Proud.
This pride stemmed directly from the idea that my child must feel very confident in her point of view in order for her to call bullshit on one of the very people she is dependent upon for care and feeding.
Only a strong, independent young person could be so, well, boozy with confidence, right? And from whom did they learn this fantastic self assurance? Well from me of course. Or at least partly from me. Well I had something to do with it, I’m sure.
And so it was through this twisted logic that I arrived at this kernel of truthiness: the ultimate compliment you can receive from your child is to be the butt of their utter disdain.
So say it with me parent beings: I am dumb and I’m proud of it! Feels good doesn’t it?
Accepting your new lot in life, is one thing. The real challenge is handling the smug superiority of your progeny in a, eh, mature fashion.
I have found it helps to define this behavior into two stages: Stage 1 Superiority roughly covers the 5-10 age range, and Stage 2 runs from about age 10 through early adulthood, possibly not ending until their first divorce. That’s just a guess mind you since I haven’t actually reached the end of Stage 2 yet.
Stage 1 Superiority moments are easy to shrug off as cute, at least for a time. Do this too often however and they will realize you are not listening to them, thereby undermining the very confidence you have striven to create. Conversely, trying to have a rational conversation about why daddy is not a dumbshit may well be an exercise in futility. I tend to fudge somewhere in the middle during this stage, opting for humorous acquiescence to their superior minds, and move on. At some point they will figure out you are blowing them off, and this likely signals the beginning of Stage 2 Superiority.
Now Stage 2 is an entirely different beast. Why is that? Well, as best I can figure it’s because Stage 2 Superiority has some cold hard facts, some actual life experience, to back up their points of view. As kids move into early adulthood, broad issues of yes and no, black and white, up and down, solidify into a freshly-minted idealism that forms the basis of their bully pulpit.
Taking on this idealism with a dickish or dismissive attitude may result in some unwanted consequences, everything from minor withdrawal to full on depression or rebellion. This is not a sign of anything good. It is just sad, and now instead of being Proud Dumbshit Daddy, you are Sad Dumbshit Daddy which is no bueno.
When I have been confronted with Stage 2 Duh Daddys – and lucky for me it is an infrequent experience – I do my best to step back and do the obvious: treat them like adults. If I hear an opinion that I disagree with, I challenge them the way I might challenge a coworker or a friend. I am respectful but also try to introduce some of life’s inconvenient shades of grey into the conversation (NO, not THOSE shades of grey, that’s what college is for.) My goal is not to “win” per se, but simply to listen, be engaged, and maybe even get out with a shred of middle-aged dignity.
Of course there will always be some things that kids will just have to find out on their own and that’s the way it should be. I was only half joking about the first divorce – sometimes idealism crashes in spectacular fashion and it’s no fun to see. I hope my kids suffer the smaller dents and dings along the way instead of the rougher tumbles many of us have had.
And until then, they can “Duh Daddy!” me all damn day, thank you very much.
Share your strategies for facing down your awesome mini-mes and leave a comment below!