As I sat in front of my sick and miserable baby boy the other night, I found myself wishing with all my might, yet again, that I could somehow magically suck out his illness and take it into my own body so that I could deal with it instead. When we were little, every time one of us was sick, my mother never failed to say “I wish it were me and not you”. Every single time. Having been a Highly Sensitive Child, I always knew where she was coming from with her wish, but I never really felt its meaning until the night my first-born got sick for the first time. I sat by his crib all night, watching him and asking myself why it couldn’t have been me instead.
I have always felt things very deeply, but never as much as when I became a mother. When your children hurt, you hurt worse. When they’re happy, when they smile, when they laugh, when they say your name, and when they say “I love you”, your heart feels like it just might explode! This feeling of love, melancholy, fear, worry and happiness… A hundred feelings rolled into one complex feeling with no name that I am convinced only moms and dads can feel. It’s that thing that makes us transform into people we didn’t know we were. It makes us goofy; it makes us strong; it makes us weak; it makes us question ourselves and our every action; it makes us crazy. It makes us parents.
And apparently it makes us want to have superpowers.
My husband and I, although we never like to admit it, have always been geeks, to some extent anyway. We share a love of zombies, Sci-Fi, superheroes, and whatnot. Among the things we have fanaticized about, we have often found ourselves wondering which superpower we would most rather have. And it was always difficult to choose just one with so many incredible powers to choose from. Would you rather fly or have super strength? Read minds or shoot out fire from your eyes? Super speed or invisibility? X-ray vision or telepathy? It’s just so difficult to make up your mind! If you’re a geek that is.
It’s become clear to me that all people develop a certain set of superpowers when they become parents. You’d have to just to be able to survive parenthood. Some people are better at some things than others. Some have a few more, some a few less, but we all have the basic superhuman powers that we require to do our jobs and do them well. Some of the powers we develop are:
superhuman multitasking powers allowing us to change a diaper while talking on the phone and typing an email, or sweep the entire house while carrying a baby and reading a book
super patience helping us to take nonstop nagging and whining, impossibly humiliating public scenes, Chinese-torture-like poking and prodding and other incredibly irritating “games” our kids find so amusing
super strength making it possible to hold a 20 pound baby in ways and for lengths of time you could never hold a 20 pound anything
heightened sense of smell allowing you to smell baby poop AND recognize its texture from a mile away
super speedy reflexes necessary to catch an active baby or child right before he falls, bangs his head, or throws a bowl full of difficult-to-clean-up food on your favorite carpet, even when you’re not looking directly at them
some weird superpower that allows you to survive on an average of 3 hours of sleep a night for months, or even years at a time
Regardless of these amazing superpowers we possess as parents, there are times when we feel like they’re just not enough. We used to rack our brains in our child-free days over whether we wanted the ability to fly or to breathe under water; and today, as a mom, I can think up a list of nice-to-have superpowers for parents such as being-in-more-than-one-place-at-a-time superpowers, mind reading and mind control, and superhuman self control. But it is now unquestionable that I know exactly what superpowers I would choose should I be given the chance. Who knows, it might happen.
(1) Healing powers. How nice would it be to take a look at your fussy child, see that runny nose and say: “No problem, I’ll fix that”. And then with the wave of your wand, or by holding out your hands, or maybe touching their head, in a second, you stop that cold or flu or whatever it might be right in its tracks. And that’s it. No more runny nose, no puffy eyes, no fever, no cough, no heartache. Abracadabra, everyone is happy!
(2) Force-field generation. Sometimes, I’ll sit down and watch my children in awe. I’ll watch them play, read, eat, sleep. I’ll sit there and admire them and love them and wonder where in the world they came from. I will feel extremely happy, extremely lucky, and then inevitably, extremely scared that something might happen to them. Sometimes I am strong enough to pull myself out of the misery I create for myself, but sometimes I’m not. And in my misery I will sit there and hope and wish and pray that nothing bad should ever happen to them. And in my desperation, I will find myself wishing I had the power to generate a protective force field around them to keep them safe from harm. Always!
The geek inside me hopes that I might one magical day be given the chance to choose any superpower I want, which is not likely to happen. And the parent inside me is convinced that if I wish hard enough, I might actually be able to heal my babies, make their sickness go away, turn back time to prevent falls, cuts and bruises, create a protective bubble to keep them safe from anything that might hurt them. That is also quite unlikely to happen.
My inner geek and inner parent have something in common. Their passions can lead them to be quite irrational, thinking ridiculous thoughts and making wishes that most definitely will not come true. But they do inspire the logical person inside me to work harder, to redefine these superhuman goals into super-parent goals, and strive to be better every day. And maybe we’ll never be able to heal our children, but I know that when I saw my mother leaning by my bed, looking at me with her hopeful eyes, wishing desperately that she was sick instead of me, her love for me shining ever so brightly, well nothing in the world could have made me better than that did.
And that is what makes us super parents.
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