I was never into superheroes. I understand the appeal, someone to keep you safe with superpowers to do it.
I want my own superpowers. Parent superpowers.
But I don’t want them hidden away in the shadows of a bat cave or unleashed when I’m furious. I want to flaunt my superpowers. I want to inspire with my ability to read your mind, bend your self-loathing into a baby koala and reshelf it in the pleasure center of your brain. I want to be a Samurai making you look at the smooth, not the warped side of the mirror.
I want to be a dazzling superhero parent of the future, living now, crown and bracelets of solar-powered Christmas lights around my head and wrists, boots made of melted-down minivans. I’m wearing a biodegradable sequin gown turning to liquid truth when I smell trouble, drowning foes in a flash flood of justice.
I carry a compost lid shield that glows when lies are flung my way and a lasso made of old fashioned duct tape to slap on the mouths of anyone slinging shame and guilt towards me or my kidlets.
My superhero power is FUN, shooting lethal laughter out of a giant bouffant ponytail doubling as a helicopter blade. Because every superhero parent, even with modern superpowers, needs to know when to lift themselves out of unwinnable negativity, and wait it out on safer ground.
Who needs protecting? I do. You do.
Gotham city and Mars and the farthest boundaries of Iceland do. Your mind, beautiful and crazy smart, it needs my superpower strength to keep you out, until you have taken a hot bath and wrung out the skeletons coming to collect while you’re busy thinking of something else.
I want to hold you up on the tip of my finger and let you create and work in peace while hairy trolls of judgment swirl around my ankles. I want to wield my superpower of funny. You will laugh until you are too tired to attack yourself, as you do every day in small subtle ways.
How many times are you going fall into the same swamp pit? How much do you need an invisible warrior to slay dangerous wildebeests singing the song your mother taught you, hiding lies within lullabies? Wouldn’t it be nice to sleep easy, on a bed I booby trapped for catching creatures that wish you harm?
And how do I get my parent superpower? Am I born with it? Do I train in the farthest corner of Asia? Have an accident in a museum with taxidermy? Shoot into outer space, lose contact, and show up ten years later in the rainforest hypnotizing panthers? What is my story? How do I get to be invincible?
Maybe I just eat cereal. Help a friend with a favor, not even a big one. Plant some eggplant. Read a book. I could get struck by lightning, but I think that’s been done.
I think a better plan is to be a superhero parent, but a mediocre one. I can knock about like everyone else, a bit confused, winning in life every third day, complaining when it feels good. And maybe when I drink my coffee every morning I get a tiny window of time to be a do good-er. Poof, your tea is just the right temperature. Kazam, your horoscope beats Pisces. Boom, who cares if you forgot the school field trip? Just a little oomph, a reminder that good things are all around you.
Come to think of it, I want to be a superhero parent that doesn’t know it. They could call me Momma Oblivianna.
I help people by accident. I think I’m just taking a walk to the park but my feet leave psychedelic footprints babies watch, giving their mothers time to finish much needed daydreams. My exhale on a cold city day reminds someone of a train, a steam engine, a cloud, a bird and they book a flight to Spain missing an earthquake in their apartment the following day. I’m standing in the rain, my tongue stretched to the heavens, an old man looking from a window is startled into working with his watercolors again. I never know my power, it’s invisible even to me.
Maybe the best superhero power is not needing one at all.
What if I could stop the villains from yelling at me in my head? What if I just said stop and they did? What if they quit picking on you too?
What if we fired our superheroes and took ourselves out to a nice lunch and afterwards we walked around the lake and before bed we listened to some good music and fell asleep happy? What if we remembered ourselves, and our kids, were just fine all the time?
I don’t think it would make a very good movie. But maybe I’ll use my dazzling, mediocre, oblivious, non-existent parent superpowers and try.
Cate Berry is a writer and performer in Austin, Texas. Her original show, Dish, premiered at The Long Center in April, 2014. Currently, she writes children’s picture books. Ms. Berry splits her time between the kitchen and the laundry room.
Photo: JD Hancock