In our earliest years dad is the one who magically appears on the scene around supper time, tickles us and tosses us effortlessly into the air. (I know some amusement parks that are hard-pressed to design a roller coaster that is half the thrill that a good strong toss up into the air from Dad is. Plus, Dad comes with a funny “whoooo” sound and no safety harness. Take that Six Flags!) In our developing minds Dad has been “at work” which to us is the equivalent to slaying dragons, fighting aliens or in some other way keeping the world safe from harm. I swore one time when I saw my Dad open a jar of pickles for Mom that she (and I) had been struggling with that he was actually a comic-book superhero and that “Dad” was simply his secret identity. The monsters that lived in my closet must have believed that too because they’d wimp out and never show up when he was around.
Later, in the teenage years (the human-development equivalent of 1960’s Berkley when we’re short on brains and long on hair) Dad appeared to have lost his mystique. He seemed to be a little more—ok a lot more critical of the things that we think are cool. For some reason his sense of justice has become skewed. He now seems old fashioned and frankly, out of touch. He doesn’t understand why we need a brand new car in 10th grade…after all it’s for the noblest of reasons, right? (And he doesn’t seem to care that Drew Thompson’s dad bought a Camero for him and why we “simply can’t” be seen at school in a hand me down Tempo with no hubcaps.) He also doesn’t understand why we don’t need a curfew when were hanging out with friends on Saturday Night or after the junior prom. Despite these times Dad is still solid as a stone. He’s tough when he needs to be but always approachable. He’s even known to shell out some gas or movie money for some extra chores from time to time. So, we can’t say he’s bad all the time…though we try.
I believe it’s when we have our own kids that everything comes full circle. For the first time we get to look through the eyes of our own childhood superhero and what we see frightens us quite a bit. Now we are responsible for slaying the beasts that lurk in closets, under beds and peer in through children’s windows at night. And we perform this magical service to the giggling delight of our children knowing full well that there are so many things in this world that we can’t protect them from. They look up at our face as if we were bitten by a radioactive spider or had moved to Earth from the planet Krypton but inside we are more vulnerable than ever. There are real monsters both on the streets and on television that we simply don’t have enough power to slay. Instead we have to do the only thing that we possibly can…we begin teaching them to make good choices…
…that’s the only real superpower in this world. At least the only one that counts. So we’ll show them how to be good and how to be brave. We’ll correct them when their wrong. And we’ll try—somehow desperately try—to instill in them core VALUES which are the only things that can really make a difference in the quality of their lives in the long run. Sure, we’ll be hard at times…but we’ll always be approachable even if this will not be appreciated by anyone for years. And in the end we’ll hand the costume off to them and let them take their turn at being superheroes and part time roller-coasters.