My Dad Isn’t Superman

26 Jan

My Dad is not Superman.

We do have a classic family photo with both my Dad and brother wearing matching Superman shirts (and capes!). But I knew my father was wearing a costume just as much as my brother was.

Lucky kids are those who go through the growing up trauma of learning that their Dad isn’t a superhero.  Unlucky kids know this immediately – they have no father or their father is emotionally distance or physically and verbally abusive.  They know their Dad as a villain. Maybe, as they grow older, they begin to see him as a terribly flawed human being.

The rest of us know our Dads as heroes.  Then, as we grow older, we begin to see them as flawed human beings.

Superhero —-> Flawed human being <—- Villain

The hints are always there.  Your Dad goes to sleep at night just like any other human. Bad things happen on TV or you drive past a car accident and your Dad doesn’t “disappear” briefly with no explanation for his sudden departure.  Your Dad doesn’t wear spandex under his clothes.  Your Dad looks the same with or without glasses.  Your Mother is not Lois Lane.

But seriously.  The hints are there.  You fall down the stairs and bruise your knee.  Your brother gets lost in the woods with his best friend for hours and although your Dad frantically searches, your brother eventually reappears on his own, having found his way home, not riding safely on the triumphant shoulders of your Dad.  Your Dad doesn’t hold you tight enough on the Raging River and you slip under the water, below lots of feet and inner tubes where you realize you are stuck and cannot get back up to the surface.  This happens again in the Wave Pool.  Although most people like your Dad, a few people don’t.  You are vaguely aware of this as a child although never quite sure who they are or why they don’t like your Dad.  There are hushed conversations between your parents, no raised voices, but enough discussions throughout your childhood that you get the idea that your Mom doesn’t think your Dad is perfect.  Which means that your Dad probably isn’t perfect. Mothers know these things.

And you realize that your Dad will do his best to keep you healthy and fed and financially cared for. But he can’t make people like you. He can’t stop rejection from happening. He cannot get you into college and find you a job and buy you every Christmas present that you’ve thought about wanting but haven’t expressly written down on your wish list.

And this is a relief.

Because if your Dad isn’t SuperDad, then you don’t have to be SuperKid.  You can just be blessedly, weirdly, comfortably, normal. Since the propensity to love has nothing to do with the depth of flaws, you have nothing to worry about.

My Dad isn’t Superman. He can’t save the world. But what he does do is…

  • Get excited when I call him at work.  Say over and over again “this was so nice! Call me again sometime!”
  • Tell me over and over again how proud he is of me.
  • Get really excited when I come home and tell me how happy he is.  For instance, “Well, now that you’re home, Christmas can officially begin!”
  • Tease me so much that I wonder what life would be like without a jokester father and a how-far-can-I-push-the-envelope brother.  Then dismiss the fantasy as boring.
  • Attempt to develop interest in sports.  Because he ended up with a son who doesn’t follow them and 3 daughters and two son-in-laws who do.
  • Cook really fantastic meals. Like Chinese food and omelettes.  And once, when we were little and had read Amelia Bedelia books way too often, cream puffs. They took hours.
  • Support us in whatever whenever for however long it takes.  And if anyone has ever sat through a 4 hour dance recital where your child was showcased for exactly 22 seconds, you know what I’m talking about.
  • Find more parental pride in any of our accomplishments than he ever does in his own.
  • Love my mom.
  • Pretend he loves all of his kids equally even though I know I’m his favorite. (Just kidding.)

Who wants SuperDad when you can have imperfect-excited-proud-happy-teasing-chef-ballet-viewing-loving-won’t-care-that-this-sentence-contains-poor-grammar-General-Tsao’s-stirfrying-Dad?

I thought you’d agree.


2 Responses to “My Dad Isn’t Superman”

  1. Meredith Ann January 27, 2012 at 12:22 am #

    Your dad may not be superman, but he is a really special and wonderful “uncle” to so many of us…and we probably don’t/didn’t tell home that nearly enough. 🙂 great post, Liz!

  2. acmcfarthing January 30, 2012 at 4:29 am #

    Nice one! Made me appreciate my dad too…

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