I decided I’m not committed to shielding my son from all things superhero. What I am committed to instead is teaching him about real life superheroes.
My son is a superhero enthusiast. If he is not dressed as a superhero (which is often), he is likely pretending to be one. He portrays each hero proudly, down to the details of his or her accent, mannerisms, and colloquialisms. In his eyes, they truly are heroes and he looks up to them.
I have conflicting thoughts around him being star-struck by superheroes, however.
One one hand, I love that he has found something that inspires such creative play. It is also pretty fun to run errands around town with The Flash. On the other hand, even though he likes the “good guys,” he is still admiring characters who are violent on a regular basis.
I really thought long and hard about this after reading a quote from someone I look up to, Mildred Lisette Norman, affectionately also known as The Peace Pilgrim:
“It concerns me when I see a small child watching the hero shoot the villain on television. It is teaching the small child to believe that shooting people is heroic. The hero just did it and it was effective. It was acceptable and the hero was thought well of afterward. If enough of us find inner peace…….the little child will see the hero transform the villain and bring him to a good life………So little children will get the idea that if you want to be a hero you must help people.”
I decided I’m not committed to shielding my son from all things superhero. What I am committed to is teaching him about real life superheroes instead. Heroes without capes or costumes who choose to show up in this life—with courage and dedication to serve others.
The heroes in uniform who risk their lives every day for the safety of citizens.
The heroes in the classroom who, with minimal resources, are tasked with the important job of educating our children.
The heroes in our healthcare system with kind hearts and listening ears.
The heroes who generously give to others without asking for anything in return.
The heroes who aren’t afraid to stop and help others in need.
The heroes who are saving our planet by waking up to environmental issues and actually doing something about it.
So, while my son may portray superheroes on a daily basis, through discussion and examples, I teach him about real-life heroes every day too.
One day recently I asked him if he would like to be a real superhero for a while by helping others. He was excited about the idea, especially when he learned he could complete all of his heroic endeavors in costume. Right away, we delivered fresh farmers-market strawberries to a neighbor. Later in the week, he picked up all the trash that we found on an evening stroll.
We created a list of other activities for us to complete together in the months ahead, including donating items to a local shelter, collecting nutritious foods for food pantries, and delivering an appreciation package to a local hero of his choosing.
As parents and caregivers, we have a wonderful opportunity to raise an entire generation of superheroes. Capes are optional, so jump in!