What I like about Superman
Our kids aren’t big movie watchers. In fact, they’ve probably seen fewer than a dozen movies between them in their whole lives and that includes animated films. They just don’t like movies. Early on in my parenting I was surprised by this a great deal and kept trying to foist movies upon them… making the mistake of taking my son, when he was much younger, to a loud and dystopic film that was ostensibly for children, but that he did not want to stay through the opening scene. Refund in hand I wondered what I’d done wrong… I bought popcorn and juice, I hyped it up a little – what wasn’t to like about the movies I wondered?
I’ve found myself asking this question about other things as parenting continues. I find things that I like and offer to share those things with the kids and sometimes they say yes and sometimes they say no. It’s when they say no that I’m surprised and I think I’m surprised because I’m offering things that I like and aren’t they supposed to be miniature, albeit better, versions of me? Truly it’s only in the last several months that I’ve come to realize that neither of my children is going to grow up to be me. Nor is that their job. Their job is to be them and my job as their parent is to support them in learning how to be them. Oohhh the money I could have saved on movies and sports gear had I only recognized this fact earlier, though I would have just then spent it on their interests – which I am now happily doing.
I think it’s tricky business as parents trying to instill a sense of moral values and beliefs while also trying to introduce your children to cultural values and beliefs. You want them to be culturally fluent, but you don’t want to force things on them that they have no interest in just because you think it’s cultural… this is particularly hard for me because I teach in an American Studies program and I have strong beliefs that there are things with cultural value that every well-read and cultured American should interact with during the course of their life. However, the more I push these things the less interesting they are – and so I’m left with my earlier realization that my kids aren’t me, nor are they going to be me.
That being said, it doesn’t mean I can’t introduce some things once in awhile and see if they take. Last night I turned on the tv, ordered up vudu and started Christopher Reeve’s Superman while the entire family was in the same room. There was some pushback but everyone stayed and watched this piece of Americana and my kids, for the first time were introduced to this iconic comic book hero. They’re also learning to think critically as they had great questions about the movie, plot problems, and American relations in general.
I sat a little surprised because I didn’t recall how much of the film had a 1970s feel. The film is replete with antiquated gender dynamics, minor profanity, and add-in race relations that are as dated as the special effects. However, the kids watched and picked up a bit of Americana (for better and for worse).
What I like about Superman is that after all of these years he can bring my family together and get the kids laughing and asking good questions. John Williams’s score can get the heart pumping and good triumphs over a somewhat modest evil. In one of the film’s final scenes after stopping not one but two nuclear warheads, after physically halting an earthquake by flying towards the earth’s core, and stopping a humongous flood from devastating a town, oh, and turning back time itself so he could do all of these things and save Lois Lane, Superman flies off to take Lex Luthor and Otis into custody. The prison’s warden attempts to thank Superman to which the caped hero flies off slowly and replies, “We’re all on the same team.” What I like is his humility – “we’re all on the same team,” really? I mean it does seem like Superman is doing all of the work, but he is humble and doesn’t take credit and goes about his business.
This is what parenting should be about at its core – a remembrance that we’re all on the same team and humility. A humility to not want our kids to grow up to be us, but a humility that allows us to be ourselves and gives our kids every opportunity to soar to new heights, heights that are all their own.