Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mom's and Heroes

As a guy who got his Bachelor's in Philosophy, I think a lot, all the time; it's what i do. The most important subject matter i have ever considered, however, did not come about until i became a stay-at-home dad to my daughter three years ago (and a father to a second child, a boy, six months ago).

And it was not until the recent superhero-themed birthday party for my best friend's toddler boy did I think my most important thought (to date): my mom is a hero.

Picture my daughter, decked out in the cutest little Flash costume (the Flash being my favorite superhero), just as we had arrived at my friends house for the party, and in front of the onlooking parents (of whom I care too much about what they think of me), demanding to take off her costume. No sooner had we arrived than I was already worn down by the "super-whine and uber-difficult obstinacy" of my "little hero". Nothing to do but move on to uncomfortable socializing.

Not long into my hopscotching through random conversations did I have to resist (as the 25 year comic collector I am) my "mega-geek" urges to educate a few parents on the various heroes represented at the party. Biting my tongue, I began to quietly muse on the question of what it means to be a hero. Since having children I have revisited this question quite a bit, agonizing over the substance of what makes a hero. After all, heros are those who serve as examples for us to aspire to, right?

As I think about it, the folks whom i often call a hero - and I have found myself calling quite a few people that very recently - have been none other than other parents, and especially single moms. I and my younger sister were raised by a single mom for four years. Then we were children of a working mother until our graduation from high school. Mom (after a long day working, without a spouse to "debrief" with on the ride home) would sit on the floor with me and play Matchbox cars, then did "dinner, bath, and bed". She even went so far as to deny herself new work clothes so my sister and I could have new school clothes. As a stay-at-home parent of two, I have come to really appreciate this sheer effort of being a parent. And I have a spouse to help.

There is a single mom who brings her kiddo to the park we frequent, and as she sits in the sandbox playing with her son I am reminded of my mom (and the Matchbox cars). Some days I have a hard time getting socks on both of my own feet after making sure my kids are up and going and set on the path of our morning routine; and I do (despite all my moaning about my working spouse's availability) get a break at some point in the day. That my mom did this for two of us day in and day out, and that i have fond memories of my childhood at that time (emerging as relatively unscathed as I am), well this is harder to fathom than tangling with any super-villian.

Becoming a father has opened up desires for demonstrations of true heroism and goodness, much like the desires I had as a child (and which perhaps made comics so fascinating). However, until facing the effort of daily living with my cherished children I don't think I understood the notion of "self-sacrifice" that underlies so much of the concept of heroism, or of the notion of "effort," or "struggle," or "challenge." Some days I could not want to be a parent if I thought about it, but my mom was there, day in and day out, even when she had to go at it alone. The more I think about it, the more I want my children to know my mother: since she deserves the honor, the fame, the recognition.

As we grow older, hopefully wiser, we start to see we always have had heroes. They just don't wear capes (except when they dress up to play pretend with us), and they don't ride white steads (except when they sit astride the broom handles, galloping around the room). They aren't strong or fast (except when they play matchbox cars on living room floor with us). Maybe one day we'll be invited to another such themed party as my friend had, and I can dress my daughter up as her grandmother.