My baby boy arrived in June of 2019. He was my first born and it was my first grand realization that life, as I knew it, was about to drastically change. I was a parent to a little boy now. Wow.. surreal. I just held his little hand and stared into those two tiny little eyes, wondering how it was that I could have had anything to do with creating this perfect little person.
My daily routine had a completely different look in no time at all. The next few months became filled with new rituals that were previously foreign to me; changing maximum capacity filled diapers, three to four hours of sleep every night, 3am drives to try and put my son to sleep, making bottle after bottle, constant feedings, giving up any and all time to myself, buying every new baby product on the market and uttering “goochie goochie goo” more times than an adult ever should…. to name a few.
In what seemed like no time at all, my baby boy transformed into this magnificent little man. He had his own personality already. He smiled and laughed and it brightened my day like nothing in comparison. He gave the best hugs now.
15 months after the birth of my son, I was blessed again. This time, I was staring into the eyes of my baby girl.
There was a little more fear there because I had never even had a sister. Would I make a good parent for this little girl or would I find ways to constantly screw it up? Well my baby girl didn’t allow me much time to think about it.
Going from one to two kids is a measurable difference and I only thought I didn’t have any time to myself before. It was busy, busy, busy. She was crawling and walking in no time and I was dancing with my daughter before I knew it. My daughter is far more stubborn and vocal than my boy but I wouldn’t want her to be any other way. She a little bundle of perfection inside a new outfit that she likes to change into almost hourly. I love that. She’s “Daddy’s Girl” and I never knew that having a girl could be so wonderful.
Yes, the fear of parenthood is quickly replaced by the responsibility of parenthood. Despite all the new duties (and dooties), those first years came and went in a blink. The seemingly endless nights of getting no sleep are but distant memories before you know it. When you have a baby, people like to constantly tell you to “enjoy it now while it lasts”. I’ve never really understood that statement, as if I’m spending all this time around my kids and somehow forgetting to enjoy it. “Oh yeah.. I’m glad you mentioned that. I keep forgetting to enjoy it!”. Babies are hard work, to say the least… but there’s just no way I could not enjoy these scarce and fleeting moments of parenthood.
I wouldn’t trade the experience of the baby years for all the money in the world. People use that phrase and don’t mean it, but parents do. Isn’t it funny how the best gifts in life come freely? This little guy was a greater gift than any treasure I could have ever hoped for.
That said, I was soon to find out that there was something I enjoyed even more than my little babies… and that was my little toddlers! It’s right about that one year mark that interaction really takes off. There’s reciprocation for every interaction. It’s amazing.
As our children progress through the toddler age, they begin to develop all those life skills that are crucial to a positive self-image and creating healthy relationships. As a parent, I found myself categorizing what I felt were the most important needs. By the time my son turned four, I came to the conclusion that his every developing pattern was based on cues he took from me. It wasn’t about what I was trying to teach him. It was about what I showed him. He was emulating everything I did and it was becoming a large part of his personality.
This got me thinking more. What could I focus on changing in me to ensure my children’s greatest growth and impact them in the most positive way? Simply, I just needed to be a hero to them. I need to be the biggest and best superhero that they would ever believe in. Kids want heroes and for all they know, I am the coolest superhero there’s ever been. I can’t fly like Superman or lift trees like the hulk but I could be a hero who teaches his honesty, integrity, love, patience and kindness through my own actions and interactions with others.
“Being” a hero is better than trying to teach your child about life’s lessons through conversation. Sure, kids pick up a lot of what we’re saying but ultimately, they want to be like you. They want to grow up and emulate the kind of person you are so what you do is more important that what you say.
“Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.” — W.E.B. Du Bois
With this in mind, I decided that I wanted to be a super parent. I wanted to get involved in my kid’s life to a greater degree than just saying I was going to try harder or spouting verbals like “don’t lie” and “don’t cheat” to teach life lessons. Getting off the couch every night is important. Put the computer away and turn off the TV. Being a superhero takes a little more work than just being an average parent but it’s well worth it. The following superhero items all require an aspect of engagement.. or “showing” your son what a hero is really like.
The truth is that there is probably an unlimited list of ways to be a hero to your child. Here’s the list of things that I’ve done with my kids just this year (three months so far!).
- Make a cape for you and them. Every hero needs a cape and flying through the house in your capes is a truly heroic way to be a parent.
- Be charitable to those in need. Don’t just offer up money to someone standing on the corner holding a cup (though that too is heroic), but seek people out and find ways to be charitable to them.
- Laugh when you lose a game. Teach your kids how to lose gracefully.
- Draw/paint a picture.
- Get the baseball out and play catch. Some kids won’t be athletically inclined but this is about much more than catching and throwing the ball. Soccer works well too.
- Build a club/tree house. Remember how cool it was to have your own? The only thing better is having you help build it.
- Teach your child how to play guitar (or musical instrument). Don’t play? Learning together can be even more fun.
- Encourage the use of imagination. When they tell you a story, add to it and make it sound even crazier.. then let them add some more.
- Take time to tickle them. They’ve loved that since the first time you did it so don’t let them off the hook because they’re getting older.
- Wrestling or just rolling around on the floor with them.
- Dance with them.
- Take them to church.
- Pray with them and let them see you praying alone.
- Hopscotch on the sidewalk with colored chalk.
- Ask them to teach you how to skip.
- Plant a garden with them.
- Take them to the park and unlike most parents, go on the slide and swing with them.
- Take them fishing/camping.
- Build a rocket. Make it yourself or buy a kit.
- Take a nature walk with them in a place he’s never seen. Walk down the railroad tracks.
- Get down on all fours and give horsey rides. Buy knee pads if needed.
- Show them how to make and fly paper airplanes.
- Let them bake a cake with you and do all the mixing.
- Have a “guys night out” and “girls night out” with them and let them pick the eating spot.
- Encourage exercise by challenging them to a race in the front yard. After you let them win, offer up a reward if (and when) they can do it again.
- Have a treasure hunt after you pretend to find a secret map.
- Have pillow fights with them.
- Take them to the zoo.
- Let them be involved in cleaning a room with you.
- Build a volcano or create an equally cool science experiment.
- Turn up the music and dance with them.
- Have a kite-flying day.
- Roast marshmallows with them.
- Take a bath with them and don’t forget the boats.
- Teach them to take pictures.
- Let them help teach your dog to learn a new trick.
- Have a water-gun fight.
- Sock puppets at bed time (an easy way to get them to go to bed fast).
- Blow bubbles with them.
- Play out in the rain with them.
- Buy a kickball and teach them how to run bases.
- Take them to a movie and enjoy a big bucket of popcorn.
- Create a brand new world with the power of playdough!
- Buy a chalkboard and draw with them(great opportunity for learning numbers and letters).
- Play a game of hide and seek.
- Make train cars out of cardboard and crayons (always a favorite).
My list is growing every day and I’m sure I didn’t hit on everything we’ve done together this year but that’s enough to get you brainstorming. In fairness, some of our projects are still works in progress (we just built the base boards for our new garden this last weekend), but focusing on outdoor activities has really increased our quality time together. I’ve learned to forego the desire to plant myself in my EZ-Chair when I walk in from a long day at work. As soon as I do that, it becomes easy to make excuses for not getting up. Instead, I walk in the door with a plan for the evening and execute.
True heroes know that average will never do. My children are far more than average and I suspect yours are too, so we need to work a little harder to help them execute the potential that is within them. Building their foundation is key to their success and happiness later on.
Your kids will be grown before you know it so use your superpowers now, while they’re at full strength and be a hero to your child!