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Growing up, you saw your parents as something larger than life. They were superheroes. Role models. All-knowing, all-powerful beings. Your dad was the strongest man in the world. He could lift you with ease and handled the weight of the world effortlessly. Nothing scared him and you could always turn to him to know what to do in a high-pressure situation. He was like James Bond and Randy Savage mixed together. James Savage, if you will. And your mom? She was the smartest, most knowledgeable woman that’s ever existed. She always knew the answer to any question and could give you advice on any situation you found yourself in.
That image of your parents never lasts long, of course. You grew up. You learned things about the world. And you began realizing that your parents aren’t omnipotent beings who always know what to do. They’re not perfect. They have flaws. As you aged, you started to realize that maybe your dad didn’t always know what to do. And maybe your mom’s advice wasn’t always the best. After all, she let you go to prom in that beige tuxedo, for god’s sake. She even told you that you looked handsome.
As you reached your tween years, and your teen years, and became more jaded (and more obnoxious), you started thinking more critically of your parents. Suddenly, your dad wasn’t the coolest man alive, he was “suuuuch a dork.” He wasn’t James Bond. He was Johnny English. If he was a superhero, his superpower was the ability to embarrass you in front of your friends. Your mom was no longer a walking encyclopedia, but rather a walking book of bad advice. Your parents knew nothing of the real world, the world you knew so well, and their opinions were antiquated, and frankly, humiliating.
Of course, all of that wasn’t true. You were just being a brat (read: teenager). As you pass those years and start to learn a little about the real world, you realize something even scarier. Your parents aren’t superheroes, and they aren’t idiots. They’re just people. People like you. They make mistakes, they give bad advice, and yes, they’re faking it, just like you are.
Do you remember the first time you realized that your parents really didn’t have it all figured out? It’s shocking. Disturbing. Even though it turns your whole world on its head, it also makes total sense, and that’s the scariest part. Why would they have everything figured out? They’re just people. That’s the realization that haunts you. Even though you’re not a kid, you still feel like you can turn to your mom and dad in times of trouble, and they’ll know what to do. Until they don’t.
A few weeks ago, I received a medical bill for $75,000. You read that right. 75 racks. Big ones. 75 grand. Obviously, this had to be a mistake. I cut it close, but I had scheduled my surgery four days before I was off my parents’ insurance. No way could they say I wasn’t covered, right? Right? And yet, when I called the hospital, that’s exactly what they told me. According to my insurance company, I didn’t have coverage, and the amount they billed me was correct. So of course, I did the first thing I thought of. I called my parents and asked them for advice. And for the first time in my life, I came back empty-handed. They had no idea. They had never dealt with that situation, and all they could say was to try and follow up with the insurance company.
I did, and it all got cleared up. They “forgot I had coverage.” Classic insurance move. But that conversation still stuck with me. My parents didn’t have infinite wisdom. They were just figuring it out the same as I was. And your parents are the same way. The more you look back on it, the more you realize your mom and dad never had it all figured out. Looking back on your childhood through the lens of a cynical adult makes it all clear. That time your dad let you steer the car while he pushed it? That wasn’t an awesome display of strength and trust in your driving ability, he had just forgotten to get gas. Letting an eight-year-old steer down the block was wildly irresponsible, and his back was sore for a week afterward. That time your mom was calm and collected when you had to go to the ER? She cried in the waiting room while you were in surgery. Your parents weren’t always in control, in the know, or on track. They were just figuring out as they went along.
Do they still know more than you? Probably. Is their advice still solid? Most likely. Hell, they’ve lived decades more life than you have, and what seems like ineffable wisdom is really just the sum of many life experiences. Most of the time, they’ve been where you’ve been and can offer a helping hand or a word of guidance on your situation. The older you get, however, the more you realize that your parents are doing the same thing you are. The same thing everyone is. Faking it. .