Happy Parent's Day
As a teenager, I didn’t see my parents as multi-dimensional people. Mom and Dad are a division of law enforcement. Their jurisdiction includes the home and a body that will become my property once I’m 18. Ugh. Sneer. Eye roll.
Raising children is very difficult. I don’t know this as a parent myself, but I know it firsthand from being a terrible son. I was too much Bart Simpson and not enough Lisa Simpson. If you’re rolling your eyes, join the club because I did too when my mom said it during an episode of The Simpsons. It was a very Marge Simpson thing to say, but not incorrect. As an adult, I’m more like Lisa and thank god because if you stay Bart too long you become a Homer.
“Why can’t they just be cool?” I’d ask my Kurt Cobain poster.
Of course as teenagers our comprehension of cool is very limited. At best a cross between popular kids in school and popular rock stars on MTV. 15 year old Nick Youssef was convinced he would be better off raised by Green Day and Fiona Apple. Green Day would never tell me to make my bed. When I ask my dad Billie Joe Armstrong for a six pack of Dr. Pepper at dinner he’ll say, “Fuck yeah son let’s party!” and stab the side of a can and shotgun it.
If my parents were even 5% like the band Green Day I’d be writing this through a voice dictation machine due to my current weight of 4 metric tons. My super cool mom would bathe my folds with Dr. Pepper and feed me Big Macs through a straw. Since she’s so super duper cool, she doesn’t bother me with lame ideas like diet and exercise. The only marathons I do are seasons 3–7 of The Simpsons.
In your early 20s, you learn something jarring: your parents used to be cool. There’s a picture at your uncle’s house of your mom and dad wearing bell bottoms and huge tinted glasses. What happened? Us. We happened. No more late night parties, frivolous purchases and legendary mistakes that become the stories cool people tell. Every night is now spent at home looking at the mistake sitting in the crib.
If you’re lucky your parents become uncool. Very uncool. Fucking losers, in fact. The coolest parents I ever met belonged to my friend Clayton. Clayton’s dad was in prison, a fact that would always warrant a collective, “Whoooaaa raaaaad,” even after the 50th time. Clayton always had cigarettes because he and his mom split cartons to save cash. Those were the parents we whined about when met with an uncool curfew.
“But mom! Clayton’s parents let him stay out till 3AM every night,” I’d say.
I still keep in touch with Clayton. He grew up to be one of the coolest felons in his prison cell.
In my late 20s, my parents became multi-dimensional people. They’re not as invincible as they once seemed. It didn’t happen all at once. Here and there I’d get random snippets from my Dad about his single years. Thanksgiving 2008 is a holiday I’ll never forget. I didn’t want to wear the required button down shirt/sweater combo so I show up in a leather jacket, t-shirt and jeans. As I walk through the Nation of Mom and Dad in full outlaw attire, I count the minutes until my Dad scolds me. Much to my surprise, he smiled.
“Reminds me of one I had in the 70s,” He said.
I stare back blankly.
He looks over his shoulder making sure mom isn’t walking into the room and leans in.
“I got a lot of ladies with that jacket.”
“It’s a sting operation! Run!!” screamed my inner monologue.
I would nod and mention something about drinking and dating and then be grounded. I am, after all, in their jurisdiction. Then my mom walks in and breaks the tension.
“Can you read his letter that came in the mail? I can’t find my magnifying glass.”
I lecture her about making an eye exam appointment to get actual eyeglasses, which then reminds me to inquire about her diet.
“Mom, are you eating more protein like the doctor said?”
I’m well into my 30s now. I’m not married and I don’t have kids. One thing that comes with that is an inner 15 year old whose voice is still a bit more prominent during responsible decision-making.
“Dude, you’re wasting your freedom by not eating pie and ice cream for dinner two nights in a row,” says 15 year old me.
“Hmmm, he’s not wrong,” adult me replies.
In my line of work an active inner child and an immaturity streak is an advantage, but as a human heading towards 40, well, I’m still not sure.
One afternoon I was doing something 15 year old me would have found especially lame and uncool. I was hanging out with my parents (eye roll). I was driving them back from a doctor’s appointment (so lame) and going to moving some heavy boxes (loser) and explaining how Facebook Messenger works for the 35,000th time. That evening, I was doing their dishes and heard a crashing sound behind me. Without hesitation I yelled, “Mom! I’ll take out the trash. You’re gonna hurt your ankle again. Go sit down!” I looked back at the brushed nickel faucet I helped pick out and I hear a metal trash can screeching across the marble floor.
Mom! Please let me do it,” I say. She rolls her eyes and walks away. Because she knows the truth. There’s a new sheriff in town.