A Super Sized Lesson (by Michael D. Bobo)
As a young father, I make many mistakes. These are most clear when I see what my son does and hear what he says. He is a mirror for my soul. Having a bright son makes that reflection painfully revealing at times. He takes in all that I am. God obviously knew that I need that accountability, but I struggle at times with the images evident to us all. And then I remember the grace of God; I sigh and I believe.
The next fixation after pancakes felt like a sweet relief. I’m pleased to report we have graduated to super heroes. My son really, really loves them. I suppose this is a healthier option on some levels than syrupy pancakes, but I’ve learned very quickly this fascination proposes a tall order. Will I be one of the heroes in the roster of greats like Batman, Superman and Luke Skywalker?
My wife and I prompted this transition when we decided to take down some of my G. I. Joes and Star Wars figures. The theory was we could offer them up as incentives for good behavior. He’s clearly motivated by rewards and I would rather draw him toward proper living than coerce him by force. He has a will of iron (Iron Man is one of his favorites!). My wife and I learned the hard way that baiting works far better for us all.
Enter the real hero – the chore chart. Simple but powerful. Complete a week of chores, get a super hero. It beats the dollar or so allowance. He would accumulate action figures anyway, so this seems to solve a number of issues with a brilliant maneuver. Needless to say, he’s got a lot of super heroes.
This fascination with superheroes has extended to his fashion as well. I am often found donning a blanket cape, a hat of some kind, and a sword. It is ridiculous and humbling to write, but in my attempts to meet my son where he’s at, I concede. Each morning, each evening, it’s one game – super heroes.
The conversation usually begins: “Dada let’s play Star Wars. I’ll be Luke Skywalker. You can be the Emperor.”
I’m hooded in with a child sized piece of clothing. He’s flailing a homemade light saber. I’m pretending to shoot lightning from my hands. He inevitably prevails. Every time. The act rarely gets old for him. So, just like the routine of mixing ingredients and pouring batter. I am learning to repeat and repeat and repeat these super hero reenactments.
The most powerful lesson that I’m learning in this latest stage of his development is my son needs to know there are defenders, super heroes, who will make things right. Powerful forces exist who will right the wrongs. Someone to kill the crabs and spiders – his typical foes. To conquer the evil emperors. And, to make sure that the house is safe for us all.
Ultimately, what I’m learning is that I need to be a similar figure: a defender, a protector, a deliverer.
Wow! What a tough life lesson. I see my weaknesses and failures continually, but through one preschooler’s eyes, I’m a fellow hero in the fight against all the bad guys. I hope this does not fade in my son’s life, but I am not so naïve. He will see me with new lenses each year. I will have to fight to protect my image as he grows and realizes that I’m a man just like he will be one day.
So another fixation reveals another layer of the game of life. It’s a tall order, but I pray and I play and I learn.
Michael D. Bobo is the Christian Literature Examiner. You can often read him on Burnside Writers Collective. Follow him on Twitter or Like him on Facebook. Read The Bobo Blog for more of his vignettes on fatherhood, faith and life.