“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.”