Updated: Jan 18, 2019
“Take out the Spiderman book today!” yells my younger son.
“No, let’s read Hulk”, counters his elder brother.
This nightly ritual in our home is a daily negotiation for the bed-time story my sons and I read together once they are tucked in for the night. Of this hour-long event, the first crucial 20 minutes determines super hero selection. The negotiations begin amicably enough, with strong undercurrents of politicking, bribery and cross-influencing.
Just when the dealings start bordering on outright violence, I use my veto power and decide on a third candidate (Captain America, arise!) who will grace our story session this time.
The next 30 minutes pass peacefully enough, with my sons contemplating on the plight of tonight’s villain, while I practice my diction (you pronounce Marvel with a toothy “v”, not the rounded “w”). By the time we reach the last 10 minutes, the younger one has plopped off into deep slumber. But the elder one, all of 8, is getting into post-book-reading discussion mode. So here we talk about the merits and demerits of the stand taken by our hero (“Is it ok for Hulk to get so angry all the time?”, or interestingly, “could Spidey just have talked about it with Doc Oc instead of fighting with him?”). Believe it or not, these last 10 minutes can be as enlightening for me as it is for him. So here are a few things I learnt as a Mom from our favourite Super heroes…
“With Great Power comes Great Responsibility”
Oft repeated, done to death, but forever true, these lines by Spiderman’s Uncle Ben are a great reminder of our responsibility as parents. As the parents of two young boys, we are currently the centre of my child’s existence. This may not remain the case for ever (wistful sigh!), but is surely as things stand today. How we behave with other people and with each other, how we react to situations, deal with issues, is what they will emulate in the future, and will lay the foundations for their adult personalities. This is great power vested in me. But how casually we parents take this power. How often we let slip behaviours we wouldn’t normally condone, but hey, we are humans too, right? I see my son’s friends come home and talk about their friends’ parents with each other – and it’s a no-brainer where they are picking it up from! And so, Spidey teaches me that while I revel in great power as a parent, I must also remember to act responsibly, ’cause they’re watchin’.
“It isn’t who you are, but what you do that defines you”
Batman’s memorable lines teach a lot of today’s competitive parents. In the rush to create perfect kids who will validate or parenting skills, we forget to raise kind kids. This thought hit me hard when one day my son came home and told me he had been playing with this other kid in the colony. This was one of the quintessential ‘bad kids’ with whom all parents have forbidden their kids to play. So M comes home and tells me he has been playing with him, and I promptly go off the rocker. After ranting for some time, I finally asked this obedient child of mine why he had gone and done what everyone knew wasn’t allowed. M looks at me imploringly and says, “But no one plays with him Mama. He comes down to play and is left all alone. That’s sad no Mama?” What do I say? Life lessons from an 8-year-old!
“You are stronger than you think you are”
Found this in a Superman comic strip I was reading out to the boys the other day. In it, there’s this young girl standing at the edge of a building, sad and depressed, about to jump off (Why are we featuring suicide in comic strips? That’s another post!). Suddenly Superman comes flying in, holds her back and tells her she is strong. Much more than she thinks she is. I see my 4-year-old display this every time he faces the needle for the dreaded tetanus shot or blood test. As he sits in my lap, I whisper these words as much to him as to myself. Of course, he bawls his heart out when the needle punctures his tender skin, but forgets about it the moment the nurse sticks the little round band-aid on his skin. Turns to me with still-wet eyes and asks me, “Main strong hoon na?” You bet sonny boy! Far stronger than the weeping mother trying to match up to your courage.
“You are making me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I am angry”
Who else, but Hulk! Literal words, but I think of this every time I start losing my temper at the kids. I remind myself when I really get angry, that I am turning into this huge screaming green monster who is out to spread widespread damage before she sits and listen what they have to say. So next time they will either avoid telling me or worse still, start lying. Early on into parenting two boys, my husband and I realized that it is much more effective to feign anger than to actually get angry. It works better, and you can avoid the ugly hulk face!
So that’s how my sons’ favourite superheroes taught me some simple life lessons. And finally, in the words of Ophelia from my own favourite superhero, Catwoman:
“Accept it child. You've spent a lifetime caged. By accepting who you are, all of who you are, you can be free. And freedom is power.”