At 4 years old, my son has just one problem in life, and it plagues him night after night. Lying in bed, a never-ending debate runs through his mind over which superhero he should be when he gets big.
Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk. Even Plastic Man remains a viable option. Each, after all, is unique, offering a child endless possibilities in the way of costumes, superpowers, weapons, vehicles and villains.
I may not be a superhero, but as a parent, I hope I’m providing him with the lessons he needs to become one. Here are six that were handed down to me:
Superhero Lesson #1: Superheroes aren’t perfect. Sometimes they crash—and it’s not always the cape’s fault. Or the villain’s fault. Or anybody’s fault, really. Things just happen. Superheroes don’t waste time blaming. If they crash, they brush it off and get back to business.
Superhero Lesson #2: Always trust your Spidey sense. It’s usually right—and with a little practice and a lot of faith, you’ll learn that.
Superhero Lesson #3: To be successful in anything, you must first be successful in your mind. Picture it there first, and your body will know what to do when the time comes to face that first curveball.
Superhero Lesson #4: When you hear a screaming ambulance racing down the street—be it close by or far off in the distance—take a second and say a little prayer for whoever’s in need. Superheroes can’t be in all places at all times, but their prayers can be.
Superhero Lesson #5: Choose your words carefully. Most mere mortals assume that the greatest superhero powers come from radioactive accidents, genetic mutations or intergalactic immigration. The truth of the matter is, superheroes first master the most common—and yet most difficult—skills. Chief among those is choosing what you say carefully. Certain words shouldn’t be uttered by any superhero. These include “never,” “can’t” and “I give up.” Other examples include “hate” and “kill.”
Just the same, there are certain words in the vocabularies of all superheroes that should be said now and again—and sometimes these are even more difficult to master. Examples include “help” and “I don’t know.” The thing is, superheroes can’t do everything on their own, and they don’t know everything there is to know. They’re aware of this imperfect quality, no matter how super they may be. Choose your words—and the words you choose not to use—carefully.
Superhero Lesson #6: If there’s one thing superheroes do well, it’s appreciating how lucky they are. After all, it’s not everyone who can fly, sling webs, or turn green and muscle-bound when danger looms. Superheroes are lucky—and they know it. That’s why they end each day with a prayer of thanks.
As you lie in bed at night, spend a few minutes thinking about everything you’re thankful for: family, friends, your home, anyone and anything that made your day better. It’s one of the most important exercises a superhero can do. And like all exercise, it makes you even stronger.
Michael T. Dolan is a freelance writer from West Chester and the human voice behind SuperheroesInTraining.com.