How to help your superhero: a superhero bedtime story
Thursday, June 5th, 2014
It was a land full of superheroes.
It wasn’t a land a little bit full of superheroes where you could walk for three hours and never see one, it was a land where if you walked for three hours, you’d be more likely to see 1,000 superheroes than zero. Then again, if you saw zero, you were likely walking with your eyes shut and you’d run into something in which case a superhero would probably come and save you.
The land was full of superheroes because it was a land where every child had their own superhero up until they turned 16. Each of these superheroes possessed powers that made them indispensable to their child. Some of them could see for miles, others could jump higher than the building you saw last time you drove through the city. Some of them could even lift up entire schools. One of them—Super Mathgirl, even did homework for her child.
But one superpower they did all hold in common…all of them would come to the rescue of their child when needed.
The little boy who lived in the medium-sized house at the end of the street, Chris, had a superhero just like all his friends. His superhero was a direct descendant from the Captain America line. Like Captain America, he carried a shield and he wore big red boots. Oh, and red gloves. Like Captain America, he was also dedicated to helping his human through all the ups and downs of life.
Like when he helped Chris learn how to swing a baseball bat. Or when he helped him get the skunk smell out his dog’s fur the summer before. Or when he helped him figure out what 8 + 3 was after he had tried for three minutes to figure it out and kept getting 10 as the answer.
But all superheroes also had weaknesses. Superman had kryptonite, Wolverine got a little scared around magnets. The Green Lantern had troubles with the color yellow. Captain Shieldman (as Chris had taken to calling him) was rendered useless every time he heard Chris crying when it wasn’t needed. One time, Chris had cried for 26 minutes in a row about his spoon being on the wrong side of his plate. Captain Shieldman spent all 26 minutes standing in the middle of the room unable to move.
When Chris admitted in minute 27 that he hadn’t actually been that sad and that he was crying “for no particular reason at all,” his family started to realize what Captain Shieldman’s weakness was—pretend crying. They did another test the next day where Chris cried for 37 minutes because bedtime started one minute too early and Captain Shieldman could do nothing more than stand on the stairs waiting for the pretend crying to stop.
So Chris had himself a problem.
He liked crying and used it as his primary weapon against parents who tried to make him brush his teeth and eat food he didn’t want to eat and get sleep so that he wasn’t tired in the morning.
But he loved Captain Shieldman. He was even better to have by his side whenever he was feeling sad or lonely or like he didn’t want to eat the mashed potatoes that were put in front of him. He might be angry about being asleep when the sun was still above the clouds outside, but the angrier he got, the more likely it became that Captain Shieldman wouldn’t be around to hang out with him. It was also important to note than when Chris cried real tears—because he was sad, because he was confused, because he was scared or because he was really happy, Captain Shieldman’s powers actually increased so that he’d be able to comfort his child.
Over the next few days, Chris tried crying less when things didn’t go his way and talking more. When his mom told him to “put away your Captain America toy because we’re going to read a story instead,” he listened to her read about a baseball game between LEGO people instead of yelling and crying and Captain Shieldman let him sit on his shield.
The next night, even though he wanted to stay up late and watch the news, Chris went to bed exactly at bedtime without yelling and Captain Shieldman let him sleep with his cape instead of a blanket.
Some days were harder than others of course. Chris was only four after all and when you’re four it’s hard to never yell and never scream and never cry and never tell your parents that you’ll never talk to them again. Ever. But each time, try as he might to help his friend, Captain Shieldman found himself unable to move and unable to help.
“It’s hard, I know,” Captain Shieldman explained to Chris late at night one day. “When I was a young superhero I wanted to cry and yell quite often. I thought it would make my parents listen to me. But you know what?”
“No. What?,” Chris asked.
“They listened to me when I talked to them. When I told them why I was angry or why I was sad. If someone made fun of me at superhero school I didn’t yell at them when I got home because I was so upset, I sat down in a chair while my mom and dad flew around me and I told them why I was upset. And they listened. And they helped. I wouldn’t be the superhero I am if I didn’t have my parents to talk to.”
Chris thought about it. And it made sense. If superheroes needed parents to talk to, there was nothing wrong with him doing it too.
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