Men’s Second Acts: Parenting Like A Superhero

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As I was about to dig into my popcorn and Sour Patch Kids while waiting with my kids for Avengers Infinity War to begin, I started to think of what a superhero is, or rather what my impression of what a superhero is, and how my opinion has evolved and changed over the years.

I am a 52 year-old divorced father who sees every Marvel superhero movie with my two boys. It is one of our bonding things that they still allow me to do with them. I was a big comic book guy growing up, and more often than not, I find myself explaining some intricate detail about a Super Hero movie to my kids that I read 40 years earlier in a comic. Yes, I am a full-on superhero comic geek. I like sharing this with my kids, as there seems to be less of those things now that they are older and I am in my 50s. And, while it’s true that now an all-nighter for me is getting up to pee during the night, turning 50 has also brought some other changes and wisdom based on my life experiences.

When I was young I thought superheroes were in comics and on TV —Spiderman, Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk. They had special powers and were larger than life. As I got older, I began to look at my parents as superheroes. In my mind, they were super human in just about every way. My Dad worked hard all day to provide for the family. My Mom stayed home to care for us. We all had dinner together every night, breakfast together every Sunday morning. While money was at times tight, we never lacked for anything and knew we were loved.

It wasn’t until I was a bit older that I realized my parents did not have super powers, and that they were just regular people like everyone else. They had flaws, made mistakes and didn’t always handle things in the best possible way. I began to see my parents as being incredibly dedicated to their family and that did their best, however they were not exactly invulnerable amazing super heroes. My Mother cooked and cleaned and made sure we were safe, but also lost her temper easily, and was stubborn. My Dad, who had lost his legs due to Diabetes, was not able to spend time playing catch with me or ever shoot baskets. He would come home from working a 12-hour day tired and in pain, but never missed one of my games. He didn’t communicate much and continued to smoke cigarettes even though the doctors all told him it would eventually cost him his life.

So, when I became a parent, I was going to be a cross of the dad in Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver. I know those are old examples, but being in my 50s and in the world of AARP and colonoscopies, that’s my frame of reference. I was determined not to make the same mistakes that my parents made, to listen to my kids, to be patient, not lose my temper, communicate and offer guidance. I also wanted to take the sense of love and safety that my parents provided to me and create that environment for my family too.

I assumed that it would be a fairy tale, sort of like the royal wedding of Prince Harry & Meghan Markle. I was certain that I would have x-ray vision, super strength, could fly and would basically be Superman. Of course I learned that, like my Mom and Dad, I was a perfectly imperfect parent. I made mistakes, and sometimes had less than stellar judgement. Yet, even though life was different, and there may have not been dinners together every night with all the kids activities and work travel, I, and my ex-spouse were successful in providing an environment in which my kids could thrive and develop.

The biggest difference from my parents is that I learned from past mistakes (both mine and theirs) and adapted. I was much more malleable than my parents were, and that malleability allowed me to adjust and to take an active role in my kids development. I am able to listen, to advise, to show understanding and to be a parent and a friend when needed. The ability to learn from mistakes and correct them, while may not be super human, is as important an asset as his shield is to Captain America.

I don’t think that I will ever be able to leap over buildings in a single bound or be more powerful than a speeding locomotive. However, as long as I use my powers to protect, provide, keep my kids safe, and treat everyone with respect and kindness, then in my mind (despite that wearing that tight costume would not be aesthetically pleasing) maybe I am a superhero after all.


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