I will never be our sons' BFF. Paula and I have discussed it we've decided we love them too much not to be their parents.
It all started with the "But I will be your best friend" promise from them every time they want us to indulge one of their "good" ideas.
Is it okay if the guys and I hang out downtown, get jacked up on double-espressos, chew razor blades while bumper-skiing behind a NJTransit bus — after we get tattoos," Zach asked. Well okay, the request may have been a bit more outlandish than that, but the rare simultaneous "no" from us was immediate.
"Please?" Butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.
"Nope," we replied again.
"Was I unclear?" I asked, trying to nip the whining in the bud.
"But why not," he spit out, with a slight hint of almost-teendom creeping into his voice.
"Because I said so." Calm, definitive parental response. In stereo, which made both of us chuckle. The hint of mirth triggered an eruption.
"Fine!" he blurted in a staccato burst on his way up to the steps and into the inner sanctum (pig-sty is too cliche, right?). Behind him in the TV room, Luke looked over his book (or the iTouch hidden by his book), taking mental notes. Okay, never go to extended syllables on 'please'....
After about 15 minutes, Zach returned to the scene of the crime.
"Mom, dad, sorry. I was wrong. I just couldn't believe that you'd say no. It's not a big deal..."
"That's okay," Paula replied. "You are almost 13 and occasionally can't be responsible for your actions."
"That's crap," I said, falling into my standard "bad cop" role in any family fracas. "You know how to communicate and that shouldn't change, no matter how ridiculous your request."
"You're right, dad," he said, not taking the bait. "I did a little reading and I straightened up my room while I was thinking. But, listen, really, why can't I?"
"Well," Paula said, "because we don't feel like a trip to the emergency room, because we love you and want to take care of you..."
"But, mostly, because we said so," I said...
"But I will be your best friend...," Zach tried.
"No disrespect to anyone you call BFF, top dude, big dawg, or whatever the hell else you try," I said, "but they will never love you with the force — rational or otherwise — that your mom and I feel every minute of every day. And we will never be your best friend, because it's our job to say "no" when you are about to do something colossally, irreversibly, stupid. Trust us, your mom and I survived colossally, irreversibly stupid stunts in our day. But there were 10,000 other disasters that were avoided because your grandparents had the nerve to simply say 'no' to us. And that's it."
"Well, what if we just went to the movies?"
"Hmmmmmm," Paula said. "I guess that's okay. But no butter on the popcorn..."
Remember to thank Zach for all the advance work he's doing for me, Luke was thinking as he looked up from Angry Paper Toss, or Bird Ninja, or whatever the hell he was playing. Mom and Dad are going to be so tired of this when I get older, I am going to get away with murder.
Think again, pal. These are the challenges that make us stronger. Eventually, you and your brother will conspire against us in your plans. That will make us tired, but our resolve will remain strong.
It's time for the parent revolt, where we can make "Because I said so" the new, "Well, I understand your need for stimulating dialogue and your intractable appreciation for reason and empirical logic in the face of being told that you're not the boss of your parents...." They are smaller, have no money, can't drive. We have experience, survival skills, can confiscate all their electronic devices. It didn't hurt us when our parents invoked the "BISS" defense, did it?
Yeah, even Dad goes too far. Now I know where Zach gets it from, Luke thought as he walked away after watching me type that last line.