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One thing you can count on when you are a parent are moments when your child will hit you with an unintentional insult

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Jason ChaneyOne thing you can count on when you are a parent are moments when your child will hit you with an unintentional insult — an observation that they think is harmless but stops an unsuspecting middle-ager in their tracks.

I've faced down a few of these during the past couple years as my kids have grown a bit older and found new and more articulate ways to point out that I am getting older, gaining weight, going gray, losing hair and so on. You know how they say honesty is the best policy? Yeah, that's a lie.

Anyway, my son's "honesty" most recently came out while I was shuttling my youngsters to school. My boy was putting the finishing touches on his mop-length hair for the 100,000th time, and I made a comment about how I used to have longer hair like him as a kid and used to fuss with it just like he does, trying to get it right. It was a real father-son bonding type of moment. His response: "But now you have a dad haircut."

Brutal, right? But hey, parenthood ain't for the thin-skinned. Earlier in the same school year, my same "honest" boy was participating in his school's spirit week dress-up days — one of which was "Dress like a dad day." He asked for a tie — I rarely wear them, but OK — and that was about all he needed from me. What would he come up with? I couldn't wait to find out. Well, I found out alright. Seems that to truly dress like a dad, it was necessary to stuff a pillow under his shirt. Thanks, buddy.

So, if you're keeping score, that's one dad haircut and one dad bod reference in the same school year. And those are only the most memorable moments of "honesty." Joining them are a variety of other precious moments where I was reminded how unfamiliar I have gotten with pop culture, technological devices, current slang — basically anything cool or youthful.

I guess it's payback — brutal, unrelenting payback for all those times when I was an infallible teenager whose tact, um…needed work. My finest moment is one that my parents will never let me forget — and one that still sends my mom into stitches.

One summer afternoon, a neighbor who lived across the street was outside in his yard, shirtless. He wasn't particularly overweight, but he was — how shall I put this delicately — a bit doughy. So, armed with my teenage sense of candor, I told my mom that I was a bit surprised. How could someone look like this in their early 30s? Because Dad…(wait for it)…didn't look like that until he was 40. I thought it was a compliment — but for some reason, my giggling mother interpreted it differently, and so did my dad, who probably wasn't laughing.

But I'm not the only one whose "honesty" wasn't the best policy. My younger brother also had a real knack for backhanded compliments. One of our favorites cropped up during a car ride into town.

To properly set the scene, I should point out that my parents did a masterful job of keeping their language G-rated when we were kids. They might let the occasional curse slip, but it was a rare event. But it was apparently not rare enough. Because my brother announced, during that car ride, that we would have a pretty good family…if Mom didn't swear so much. Like my dad bod remark, I'm sure he meant it as a compliment but for some reason, my parents didn't take it that way. And they have never let him live that "compliment" down.

These next few years should be interesting. The gray hairs are multiplying, fitness is getting more and more elusive as the aches and pains intrude, and I don't expect my knowledge of current trends and slang to improve. Meanwhile, my kids have just entered their teen years, where they will know everything and won't hesitate to share it. I'm sure many more moments of "honesty" and "compliments" await me. I hope my skin is thick enough to take it.


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