Superheroes have been an important part of my life for as long as I remember. When most kids were outside playing in the sunshine and generally being healthy, normal children, I was holed up inside watching or drawing the Super Friends. And each night I’d ask my little brother what he was going to dream about, but I really didn’t care… it was just an excuse to spin elaborate tales of how I was going to dream about flying with Superman, swimming with Aquaman, or riding in Wonder Woman’s invisible jet. Even the first drawing contest I ever won was for a self-portrait wearing my Superman t-shirt.
Fast-forward a whole lot of years, wherein superhero cartoons begat comics collecting which begat a love of pop art which begat becoming a graphic designer. All these years later I’m still obsessed with bright colors, bold graphics, and lots of dots. In my office hangs a poster of Warhol’s Superman, an original Aquaman animation cell from the 60’s, and several shelves of vintage (and some not-so-vintage) comic-related books, action figures and other tchotchkes.
About three years ago, my love of comics even played a part in us becoming parents. As part of the adoption process, we created a Family Album from which potential birth parents would choose us. The album contained photos of us, our house, friends and family, as well as letters of introduction, places we’d traveled, things we liked to do. The birth parents that ended up choosing us were drawn to, among other things, the fact that I was a fellow comic book fan.
Fast-forward a couple more years, and you can imagine how proud I was the first time I heard JJ sing himself to sleep with the Batman theme song, how excited I was when he learned to pronounce “Aquaman,” and how tickled I am to watch him bound around the house in his Superman pajamas.
Yet sometimes I feel I’ve created a monster. Every ride in my now car requires multiple spins of both the Spider-Man and Batman TV themes, as does each visit to the internet and most times the TV is turned on. (Keep in mind it’s just the theme songs he wants to hear — not entire episodes.) While Spider-Man’s theme song is cheesy and dated, at least there are some fun lyrics (“Is he strong? Listen bud, he’s got radioactive blood!”) But Holy Chinese torture, Batman! — that show’s titular tune has only one word in it! What’s more, JJ recently started insisting on being called Robin. Thus I’m Batman, Papa is Aquaman, and Cordi (the dog) is Wonder Woman. It was cute at first, but it can be hard to get your son’s attention (or get him to take you seriously) if he’s decided to answer to a different name.
Then just a few days ago, something happened to put JJ’s super-obsessions in perspective. As he and Papa headed out the door for daycare, for the first time I had to coerce a goodbye hug and kiss. Normally these are given with much exuberance, so I’ll admit it was a little heartbreaking. It reminded me that — if he’s anything like most kids — there might be days (or years) where my son may not be affectionate with or even speak to me. Everything is a phase, both the good and the bad. So while I enjoy the cuddly moments and hero worship, I can also endure the unending “Na na na na na na na na”s that are also a part of JJ’s current stage of development. I need to revel in my current identity of SuperDaddy, provider of all things cool and doer of no wrong — realizing that before I know it I’ll just be mild-mannered Dad.