Monday, January 16, 2012

Parental Superpowers

When my son asked me about having superpowers, he meant it as a "What if...?" question. Instead it lead my brain down a rabbit trail of thoughts, starting with the belief that I was already in possession of numerous superpowers, all parenting related, and ending with the realization that there is truly only one superhero in our household. And it lead to my latest column. (Read it on the newspaper's website here.)

“If you could choose two superpowers, what would they be?” my son wondered one gray winter morning over breakfast, as if the day’s agenda included re-creating his parents as comic book characters.

“Just two?” I asked.

“Yeah, just two.”

“That’s a tough one. Let’s see, superpowers...” I tried to buy time (superpower: stalling), but kids sometimes use questions only to introduce their own answers. This was such a time. I needn’t have delayed.

“I already know mine,” he interrupted. “Invisibility and teleportation.”

“No, you don’t want invisibility,” I told him. “Invisibility would only get you in trouble.” (superpower: wisdom)

“But what about teleportation? Then I could, like, just show up at school. I wouldn’t have to walk.”

“Seems wasted when you live less than a block away.” (superpower: observation)

“Yeah, well...” he muttered, shrugged, and slurped his last three Cheerios, a whole grain ellipsis punctuating his unfinished thought.

Still not prepared with a response, I deferred to my daughter. (superpower: diversion) “Hey, Meg,” I yelled down the hall to my no-longer-sleeping yet still-in-bed oldest. “If you could choose two superpowers, what would they be?”

“Invisibility and mind reading.”

“Mind reading? People already SAY plenty of nasty things. Why would you want to know everything they’re NOT saying?” (superpower: persuasion)

“Good point,” she conceded.

“Besides, you’re already invisible.” I added. “You haven’t appeared at breakfast all week.” (superpower: humor)

“You guys are freaks.” This was my wife’s unexpected contribution, added with a slight roll of her eyes and accentuated by the thwack of her coffee cup on the kitchen table. “He just throws out ‘superpowers’ during breakfast, and suddenly you three are engaged in full-on conversation. Is there some standardized list of superpowers that I’m not aware of?”

“Well there’s flying and super strength and speed. Those are pretty standard,” I inform her. (superpower: analysis)

“Yeah, like Mr. Incredible and Dash - pshooo!” the boy says, providing his own sound effects.

“I meant real superheroes like Superman and Spiderman and the Flash.” (superpower: suspension of disbelief)

“Real superheroes?” my wife asks.

“But you have to watch out for guys like Batman,” I continue. (superpower: avoidance) “Batman was just a normal guy with cool gadgets. No super-strength or anything.” (superpower: rambling)

The boy nodded his agreement.

“You know what?” Jennifer placed both hands on the table and stood slowly. “You all just keep making stuff up, all your invisi-portation and tele-bility.”

“Invisibility and teleportation?”

“Whatever. Here’s the deal.” She paused and glared at each of us in succession. “I can clear the table without you noticing.” We looked down and sure enough, our cereal bowls were missing. “I can get dishes, laundry, and bathrooms clean faster than you can get them dirty. I can organize transportation for dance, soccer, swim, and after-school meetings and - legally, mind you - get everyone there on time. I pick up the clutter and lay down the law. So you can talk about superpowers all you want.”

“I’ve got work to do.”

(superpower: Mom)

1 comment:

  1. I LOVED this post! The number one choice among my students when asked what they'd wish for is SUPERPOWERS!
    (I know that is shouting, but that's what they would do.)
    The idea of kids conversing with parents at breakfast is impressive and leads me to believe they may never be able to fly or disappear, but they are quite likely to inherit those amazing parental superpowers you've modeled for them.


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