A few days ago, my husband and I were stocking up on summer shoes. In an attempt to foster independence in our toddler, we let him pick out his new sneakers. He went straight for the red-and-blue-Spider-Man pair, a curious choice given the fact that (a) my son has never seen a Spider Man movie or cartoon and (b) doesn’t know how to tie shoelaces.
I realized that my son is well-versed in superhero culture. Indeed, he’s convinced that his dad and I can do anything, including summoning more jelly from seemingly empty jars and maintaining the same level of enthusiasm after the nth reading of Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site. The more I thought about it, the more I realized our toddler thinks I have lots of superpowers. Let’s promise not to tell him the truth until he’s at least 18, okay?
Early on, I avoided strollers and committed 100 percent to baby-wearing. This wasn’t such a bad decision when my kid was an infant: he nestled his tiny frame against my chest in a K’tan, and we went about our business. These days, though, he’s considerably larger and I reconsider my anti-stroller stance every time we leave the house.
As far as Baby is concerned, I’m the Incredible Hulk. When he wants to be carried, he wants to be carried — and firmly believes that I should comply regardless of the circumstance. Lugging my work bag, a laptop, and his latest arts and crafts project from daycare? Doesn’t matter. He needs a boost to reach the top of a ladder at the playground? Sure, no problem, don’t mind me as I deadlift him above my head. I’ll just need to call on my trusty sidekicks: tricep dips and Tylenol.
2. Biological Manipulation
According to legend, Elixir is capable of controlling the biological structure of any organic matter. A recent interest in birds means my son would like to carefully and closely examine any and all who come our way. “More,” he’ll cry, while signing the word by banging his hands together. Alas, I can’t make birds or dogs or cats or any other creatures come at will. I can, however, comment on their cuteness.
3. Perfect Mimicry
Plenty of parenting experts recommend using different voices while reading to stimulate children’s interest in books. I treat my son to two voices: my own, and one that might best be considered a nasally cross between Mr. Belvedere and Moriarty. Perhaps I was a sociopathic butler with a flair for the bon mot in a past life. At any rate, in this life, I’m just doing my best.
My husband, on the other hand, can do lots of voices: squeaky clownfish, self-centered skunks, spunky pumpkins. And when he’s not around, Baby begs me to make like Mystique and read the books like Daddy. To his credit, my kid never seems disappointed when I can’t, although it doesn’t stop him from asking and asking.
4. Lightning-Fast Reflexes
Every parent has a story or six about the time their kid almost fell off the jungle gym/out of the car/down the stairs. We dive like Batman, we stretch like Elongated Man, we shoot out a hand or a leg to protect our offspring like Inspector Gadget. My husband waited months to tell me about the time he caught our 12-week-old an inch from the floor after Baby slipped free from his carrier. Lately my son thinks it’s funny to roll right to the edge of the bed, waiting for me to lunge like Captain America at his ankle or thigh. He laughs and laughs as my hand goes white from gripping.
5. X-Ray Vision
If it were up to my son, we’d walk backwards all the time. Sometimes we say “beep beep beep,” like a truck in reverse. Sometimes we do a “speed burst” and go as fast as we can. Other times we try to go as slow as possible. Well, I suppose I should clarify: one of us tries to go as slow as possible while the other one tries to get to work on time.
If you’re wondering how often we bump into people on the sidewalks of the busy New York City neighborhood where we live, the answer is a lot. My son seems to believe that I, like Superman, possess X-ray vision, or at the very least I can see what’s behind us and dodge accordingly. But that’s a mom skill I don’t (yet) have.
6. Impenetrable Exoskeleton
When overtired or overexcited, my son will sometimes bite. Usually, I’m on the receiving end of this perfectly-normal-my-pediatrician-has-reassured-me-multiple-times aggression. Still, it’s not fun, and those teeth that looked so adorable coming in can cause some real damage. Unlike the impenetrable exoskeleton that surrounds Iron Man, my skin bruises and breaks.
“This too shall pass” reminds every parenting book everywhere. In the meantime, I wear a lot of bulky sweaters and long-sleeve shirts, which is now my very own costume.
My body was my son’s first safe place and I’m proud that he continues to come to me for comfort when sick or sad. Little does he know that I could spend the rest of my days holding him close, preferably with his dad on the other side creating a family sandwich. To access their empathic healing powers, the Blue Lanterns must don special power rings and stand near Green Lanterns. Apparently I just needed to procreate. Yet, even as I revel in Baby’s ability to take comfort from me, I know that he’ll have to learn to heal himself eventually. Kind of like Wolverine, but without the long claws and complicated backstory.