It's not something that happens overnight, though it may come on like an epiphany: "OMG. My kids think I'm a complete idiot!" Your YAK (Young Adult Kid) progeny has come back from college, or from traveling in Europe, or they're out of the rehab, or jail. Or maybe they're just on a weekend visit from their own grown-up life, and now, after all these years of believing that you, their Mom or Dad, knew everything, could fix anything and were mentally and physically infallible -- they've come back to let you know that they were wrong: You don't know jack.
They've also realized, in their budding adult wisdom, that there's a good chance that you're responsible for every physical or psychological blemish they're now struggling with: ovarian cysts, baldness, depression, weak vision, indigestion, alcoholism, drug addiction and the heartbreak of psoriasis. All your fault.
Welcome to The Stupid Parents Of Terminally Smartass YAKs Club. You're in the right place. For a change.
This profound fall from grace in the eyes of our YAKs can be both a relief and drag: a relief because you're no longer expected to be right all the time, and a drag because you're now expected to be wrong all the time. It's also a drag because once you've entered this netherworld where the world isn't round or flat but is simply a projection of a corporate conspiracy, there's no going back. The snake has served up the apple, the YAKs have chowed it down with nary a second thought and that happy loving family where Mom and Dad could do no wrong is banished from the garden forever.
Can nothing be done?
Thankfully, the answer is yes: nothing can be done. Or said. And nine times out of 10, doing/saying nothing is, if not the most satisfying, certainly the most prudent -- and safe -- course of action.
For example, when you're informed that your car, your clothes, your shoes -- everything about you reeks of bourgeoisie and it's embarrassing to be seen in your company (exactly what we might have told our parents in 1968): you should trade the BMW in on a hybrid Corolla; get rid of the leather and everything that has a stitch that might have been sewn in a Bangladesh factory; give up soy, which, when you last checked, was the ethical substitute for meats; and, of all things, stop supporting Obama, the corporate puppet who plotted with Bush, Cheney and the Saudis to blow up the World Trade Center (back when your present accuser was still wearing his/her Hannah Andersons) -- what's a 21st century parent to say?
The natural inclination is to say what our parents might have said: "There's the door. Don't let it hit you on the way out."
Your second, slightly more enlightened and compassionate reaction might be to push back: "The BMW is the safest car on the road and it just so happens you like the way it drives, it's easy on the lumbar, you can afford it and you hardly ever drive anywhere anyway and blah blah blah."
Bad move. You've mistakenly assumed that logic has something to do with your guilty verdict. Now you're trapped.
The reaction that runs entirely counter to your inclination -- that is to tacitly agree or at least take the argument under advisement -- is likely to be the course of action that will make you right, or, if not right, then the least wrong. When your accuser asks for the keys to the Beemer, you now have a little leverage to work into the transaction.
By the same token, it's also okay to admit that when all of the world's assets, resources and people were absconded by Larry Ellison and his ninja shadow army you simply weren't paying attention. Go ahead and admit your guilt and ask for enlightenment, even if your natural inclination is to call the mental health hotline. You don't have to be snarky about it. Just explain that you've been busy working and feeding a family and, if you're lucky, the YAKs might make the connection.
Then there will be times when your YAK is so blatantly full of shit that it's simply impossible to roll over. Like insisting that Paul is dead and the guy in Wings is an impostor. In such instances it's advisable to react as if you've been confronted by a mugger and wet yourself. While this neither corroborates nor refutes your YAK's outlandish claims, it is almost certain to change the subject.
Of course you have to be careful not to invalidate your YAK's budding wisdom and self-confidence, but you also want to maintain a modicum of self-respect. It's tricky ground. Your YAKs expect you to fight back and when you don't take the bait, they may become sullen, even withdrawn. They may even come to the conclusion, at some point, that their parents aren't stupid, they're just old and tired.
If that olive branch is offered up, whether it's true or not, it may be advisable to take it and totter back to your La-Z-Boy. It's probably all the sympathy you're going to get, and it sure beats being the household idiot.
Jeb Harrison is a practicing father and the author of the novel Hack, a page-turning chortle warbler. He is also the proprietor of Adventures in Limboland, home of similar silliness and questionable taste.