On the plane home after New Year’s, I sat next to a young man with his son sitting on his lap. The boy couldn’t have been more than two or three years old, and he was just adorable with his big cheeks.
They were looking through the airline Skymall magazine together to pass the time while we were delayed on the tarmac for 45 minutes. Dad pointed to the pictures in the magazine asking, “What’s that?” and his son called out what the pictures were with such enthusiasm in his barely understandable toddler speak. It was so darn cute that I chuckled each time.
Dad pointed to dogs, cats, cars, and many other items and the boy named each one with gusto.
They eventually came to the last page of the magazine, and I felt a twinge of disappointment that this exercise was coming to an end. I was really enjoying observing this gentle and caring exchange between father and son.
On the last page there was a picture of Superman. Dad asked his son, “Who’s that?” while pointing to the red-caped super hero.
The boy said, “Dad!”
Me and Dad laughed and he said, “No, that’s not me. Who is that?”
The boy insisted in his best English, “Dat’s you, Dad!”
Dad said, “OK” with a smile and moved on.
I was deeply moved. Hearing this comment from the young boy brought tears to my eyes. The way this child held such a strong and safe image of his father. I found myself thinking obviously his dad was Superman, because aren’t all dads Superman to us when we’re young?
I love this story. Very moving. It shows the importance of having a safe, consistently available parent as a child. Without such, a child feels insecure, unsafe, and the world becomes a much more dangerous place to live in. I would imagine the father had a little bit of a hard time owning the image of superman from his son, knowing one day his son will realize his humanness and feel disappointed to some degree. I’m glad he chose to let the child hold the image of him as superman. Love the post!
I feel a little sad thinking this boy will one day be disappointed by his dad. But I suppose we all go through that with anyone we look up to – realizing their humanness.
This is a beautiful story – so loving and sweet. It also illustrates why even the most casual negative comment from a parent can be so powerful, particularly at an tender age when we are just learning about who we are. And then later, why it’s important for us as adults to question the self-limiting messaging we have about ourselves inside our minds. Thank God for psychotherapy!!!
Thank you, Susan, and you are so right on.