A friend of ours invited me to come speak to her fifth-grade class about my past writing, Autism, and things like that. It’s a real honor and a rare chance to garner some street cred from my daughter.
Really? You’re going to speak to the class? I’m going to brag about it.
It made me smile. Olivia was the toughest fifth grade critic of them all. Earning anything even resembling an impressed response was a major deal. I was proud of myself, well, until she continued.
Daddy, these are ten-year olds. They’re not going to pay attention to the guest speaker. They’re going to be chatting with their neighbors. You can’t talk to them like you talk to me.
I wasn’t sure what she meant. Luckily, she explained further.
You can’t be like…
At this point, she adopted a high-pitched Kermit The Frog voice. She sounded like Eddie Murphy doing an impression of a dorky guy asking for directions.
Neee-ow, the thing is…
What? I don’t do that.
Yes you do. “Neee-oew, the thing is…” You do that. I hear you.
I stared at her in stunned silence for a brief moment. She chuckled and went back to her Youtube tutorial. I then proceeded to obsess over my own speech patterns for the next day.
I’m not used to being over-analyzed or even regular analyzed. My baby girl, who once was so embroiled in her own princess world that she barely noticed we were in the room, is now a swarmy little kid taking notes and using them to slam us. The youngins today call it “getting roasted.” I call it, “every freakin’ day of my life.”
I used to be able to listen to whatever music I wanted. I could even insist that Olivia listen with me. I’d tell her stories about the bands or memories of a particular song. She would listen as I just spouted out mostly-true information I could sweep up from the back of my brain. I felt like I was teaching her about the world even when I was just naming songs the Gin Blossoms or something.
Those days are over. Now, if I’m listening to 90s punk music while making dinner, little Miss Roastmaster jumps right in.
Is this another one of your phases? Punk music?
Another one of my phases?
Yeah, like wearing V-Neck t-shirts. Look. You’re wearing one right now.
The conversation had taken a hard turn. I looked down at my neck and, yes, I was wearing a V-Neck. Then again, if I’m being honest, I always wear V-Neck t-shirts.
I always wear V-Neck t-shirts. That’s not a phase.
Yeah. Exactly. Like watching wrestling.
That’s not a phase either. What are you talking about? Why are you stalking me?
I don’t like punk music. I’m leaving.
With that, she stood up with the facial expression of an aristocrat and sashayed from the room. I was left standing there dumbfounded.
What really gets me about this girl is that I used to be her. It feels like yesterday. I was the kid harassing the grown ups with my silly banter. It wasn’t rude or anything that deserved punishment, but it was witty needling that produced a hilarious response I could giggle about silently later. I was the awkward tormenter in the vein of Andy Kaufman or Eric Andre. The adults were always the ones we drove crazy like the ensemble cast of a Nickelodeon sitcom.
Now, she’s the insult comic and I am the adult target. That’s what happens. One night, I went to bed as Zack Morris and woke up as Mr. Belding. I have no idea when this happened, but here we are.
She takes pride in labeling me a “noob”, which is the current generation’s word to replace the colorful curses of my own youth. It’s a much softer blow than some of the stuff we came up with during my childhood, but it still packs a punch. How does a grownup respond to this? I’m a noob? No way! YOU’RE a noob! Why would I say that? In this context, I barely even know what “noob” means.
Eventually, she started calling me a “nub.” I thought she had invented this word as a cute alternative to “noob”. Then I Googled it. A “noob” is bad at something because they are new to it. A “nub” is someone who will never get good at it no matter how much they try. This kid’s a little dipstick, I tell ya.
Of course, I’m still tricked by moments that almost make me feel like I might still be cool. We were describing the TV show “The Mole” to a friend of hers the other day. It’s an old reality show I dug up on Youtube and got Olivia into. She tried to lay out the premise in her own words.
So there’s a group, right? And they earn money but a mole is trying to stop them from earning money. And they don’t know who it is. And they all take a test and get eliminated.
She had gotten all the points right but her narrative was all over the place. So, I tried to help out.
Yeah, they all work together to earn as much money as possible in their tasks. The thing is though that there is a fake player trying to stop them from winning money. That’s the mole.
Olivia jumped from her chair and shouted.
That’s it! Daddy, that’s it!
I felt like a genius. My explanation must have been so perfect that she…
Did you hear it? Did you hear it? “Nee-ow, the thing is…there is a fake player…” I told you he did it!
Yeah. I’m the target. I’m the Belding. But one day she’ll have kids to make her feel the same way and this will feel like I was yesterday to her. When she does, I’ll hope to be right there shouting out, “Ha! Sick burn, you noob!”