Son, if you’re going to grow up to be just like me, then you’re destined to be a cynic. You’ll question every motive, assume all facts are suspect until proven otherwise, and treat all salesmen like all they really want is to separate you from your money (Actually, the last one’s not cynicism, that’s just reality.).
But you are not yet a total cynic. In fact, you have quite a way to go. By “quite a way” I mean pretty much all the way, with one rather unfortunate exception. You’ll believe anything anyone says as long as “anyone” doesn’t include Mom or me. You are what I would call selectively cynical. Ours are the only opinions you see fit to question as a matter of course.
For example, you won’t believe me when I tell you that eating five cupcakes will cause you to feel like crap, but you believe Billy when he tells you the school counselor is an alien. If I weren’t also convinced that Mr. Briggs was an alien, I’d seriously question your judgment.
Mr. Briggs aside, the case still stands that anything I tell you is up for review and critical analysis, whereas anything you hear, see or read elsewhere is to be accepted without question. If I tell you to tie your shoelace before you trip, you’ll tell me it’s fine and you don’t need to tie it. If Tommy tells you he knows of a guy that tripped on his shoelace and got his head chopped off by a passing hatchet delivery truck, but lived to tell about it because his head landed in a vat of ice cream that kept it frozen until the doctors could re-attach it later, you’d preach the virtues of well-tied shoes.
This is your critical decision-making process, as I understand it:
You hear something.
Step 1: Did my mom or dad say it? If yes, then it’s a bunch of hooey.
Step 2: There is no Step 2.
Now, before you lay claim to inventing that process, you should know that I was doing it long before you were. I spent my entire youth denying the possibility that my parents could be correct about anything. And I’d go to any length to prove it. A few examples:
- Mom said that eating a whole stick of butter would be a bad idea. I insisted it was awesome, then puked as quietly as possible in the bathroom for the next hour. But that had nothing to do with the butter; it was the 60-minute flu, I swear.
- Dad told me it was cold and I should wear a jacket, so I went barefoot and coatless. Yes, I froze my butt solid but it’s only because the weather changed while we were out; it was totally warm when we left. Really.
- The janitor at school was a werewolf. I know this because Tommy Johnson told me so. Despite what my parents said, the only reason the janitor didn’t go on a wild killing rampage was because his wife locked him up every time there was a full moon. Tommy even heard the janitor on the phone with his wife talking about being handcuffed to the bed. Why else would he let her do that if he wasn’t a werewolf?
- Mom told me the movie would be too scary for me but I knew better so we went. I wasn’t crying under the seat because I was scared; the movie was boring and I was down there counting popcorn kernels. They were tears of boredom.
The sad irony, of course, is that there was a time when my mom and dad were the only two people whose opinions mattered. Then I discovered they were human. You discovered I was human sometime around age 9 and everything changed. You went from worshiping at the Church of Mom And Dad to worshiping at the Church of Whatever Sounds Good At The Time Especially If It Goes Against What Mom And Dad Say, Is Completely Illogical Or Otherwise Ludicrous.
I’ve spent my whole life preparing to teach you all the lessons I’ve learned—many the hard way. I want to teach you about the importance of honesty, how fortunate we are, what true friendship means, the value of money, the joy of being out in nature, the importance of having passion in your life. Unless I can get Tommy to tell you these things, you’re not likely to learn them any time soon. There’s so much I’d like to show you, but for now, I’ll have to settle for trying to convince you that you’re going to trip if you don’t tie that shoelace.