Saturday, June 24, 2006

Raising Your Kids On Superheroes

My wife's been out of town for four days at a teacher's conference in St. Louis. The day before she left, she didn't want to go. There were too many things around here that she hadn't gotten finished that she wanted to do.

Plus, I think she was afraid she was going to be homesick. It's the first time she's been away from us (and Chandler, our eight-year-old) that long. (Although she and Chandler went camping overnight last week and escaped me while I limped around with the foot injury. I didn't go. She told me they weren't going to do anything strenuous, then called early Saturday morning to say they were out hiking. See? I've been married to her long enough to know better.)

I told her to enjoy the trip. I try to take a trip once a year, especially when a publisher or convention is going to pay for it. Like I told Sherry, you get your own bed, your own TV, your own bathroom -- what's not to love?

Anyway, Shiloh, my seventeen-year-old, stays gone much of the time. He's umping at the ballpark and out with his buddies. He and I still do a lot together, but we just don't chase the same girls. : )

So I've been at home with Chandler. Thursday night we decided to watch movies, which we often do. He's the only one in the family who loves superheroes as much as I do. We've enjoyed the reincarnations of the Justice League, Batman the Animated Series, Superman, Teen Titans and Ben 10.

I believe in superheroes. We need them. As moral compasses, they give us ideals that are greater than most people might uncover in their lives if left alone. They point the way to generosity, sympathy, self-sacrifice and redemption -- as well as overcoming staggering odds. And they run around in really cool costumes.

By the way, at Halloween every year I usually dump over a hundred bucks buying superhero costumes for Chandler. He uses them all year long to run around in as playwear (it beats sending your kid outside dressed in Underroos!). His friends think it's cool. Just last week two of them were over and Sherry and I had three of the Fantastic Four running around in the back yard. I promise you, Evil was kept at bay and probably trembled in its boots!

Chandler and I went through our stash of comic book heroes on DVD (a collection that is truly not appreciated by anyone else in the house, although it does teach the others who live here a certain amount of tolerence). We found Batman Beyond. The series debuted in 1999 as a revamped Batman of the future designed to sell lots of cool new toys.

Terry McGuinness became the new Batman, operating under the auspices of a very old Bruce Wayne who had a heart condition and could no longer pull night patrol in a cape. The future is interesting, filled with Jokers who are a street gang, a Mr. Freeze taken out of cold storage (yes, that is a pun, and comic books do have them, so I blame them for this particular character flaw of mine), and retired past sidekicks Batman has had. And an interesting array of new supervillains with way cool powers.

Chandler and I fired up the first DVD, sat down with bowls of Spaghettios (I did mention my wife was out of town, right? We don't have to eat healthy!) and kicked it. We had a blast watching Terry learn how to be Batman, as well as the interplay between mentor and student. The music really drives the action and the writers wrote to move the story along, not to present material for the voice actors. The episodes are simple and good fun. Just the right stuff for a growing male mind. And probably for females too, but my one and only daughter never got into superheroes.

Shiloh, sadly, has outgrown superheroes (although he's looking forward to Superman Returns coming to a theater near you next week!). At least for now. But when he was five, he loved the original Batman the Animated Series. He would run around the house in Batman Underroos with a towel around his neck for hours, jumping off everything he could climb on (which is another argument for Halloween costumes and playing outside). The weirdest phase he got into was when he used to knock all his clothes off the bar in the closet and hang upside down -- like a bat.

I coach Chandler in baseball and basketball, and I take him to his martial arts practices (he just passed his stripe test and will be a purple belt next week!), but I don't often just get to be his buddy these days. There's just so much to do. But we're best of buds because we have interests that no one else has (no one went with us to see the latest Zorro movie -- which is a great film for superhero buffs, and no one went with us to see King Kong -- and there wasn't a superhero in the entire film but how can you pass up a trip to Skull Island?!).

We finished up the Batman Beyond season one last night and were just two happy kids kicking it in the living room floor with the surround sound system WAY TOO LOUD. Sherry takes Chandler to the zoo and other things that will enhance his education, and she plays video games with him way past my patience level, so she's the perfect little boy's mom.

But me -- I'm the one Chandler chooses to go on cosmic adventures with, talk about superpowers with, figures out who the strongest superhero is with and can use my imagination enough that my car isn't a car at all, but an intergalactic space cruiser equipped with ejection seats (DON'T TOUCH THAT BUTTON!) and death rays.

It's a good life! Zowie!

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