Last weekend, I went to see Man of Steel with my oldest son. I’m a big superhero fan, especially DC comics superheroes—Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash. We’ve been superfriends since my childhood.
As I was watching the movie, wearing my Justice League shirt that my brother-in-law bought me, I saw myself on the screen. No, I have no delusion that I look like Henry Cavill, or that I can fly—despite my best efforts as a child, running around the yard with a towel bunched around my neck and flowing down my back. I just never could get any air to take off.
No, I saw myself in someone I never associated with—Pa Kent.
In Man of Steel, Pa Kent is different than he’s been portrayed in the past. he’s still a good man, a man of solid character. But he’s also afraid. Not of his alien, adopted son who could sneeze and blow his house down. But of the world that his son is a part of.
A world that may not understand him.
A world that may try to hurt him.
So he advises him to keep his powers hidden. To not draw attention to himself. To hold back.
Pa Kent is afraid of a world that would try to hurt his son—despite his son’s great abilities.
I’m not raising any adopted aliens in my home—although I do think there’s something alien growing in one of their rooms. Nor do I think my children have superman-like powers. I saw that firsthand when I pushed one of them out of a swing as a child, and he went flying in the air and landed on the ground.
But I am like Pa Kent, in that a lot of times, I react out of fear. And as they get older, this seems to leak out more and more. Especially with my oldest, who is now a licensed driver.
“Watch out for that intersection. It’s really hard to turn left there.”
I’m not sure he should pick up that pinestraw alone. Maybe I should go with him since he won’t know what to do.
“Have you checked your grades lately? What about your bank account?”
“Did you think about . . . ?”
“Don’t forget to . . . ”
I believe that as they grow older, they still need me to parent them, guide them, remind them. And the thing I really loved about Man of Steel was the theme throughout of protecting others, protecting the people you love. But as my boys get older, the reality is that I can control their environment less and less—and I feel that. So sometimes how I react, and how I respond to the things they ask or the things they do are based on possible worst-case scenarios that may or may not happen.
And I know my fearful reactions come across to my sons as if I don’t trust them. That I don’t think they can handle situations. But the reality is that it has little to do with them, and more to do with me and my desire to protect them.
I know this will be my biggest challenge personally in the next few years—of letting him grow up with this huge desire I have to protect him.
The world that my wife and I have been able to create for our boys will become too small, and they will venture out into whatever God has next for them. And everything within me will want to go and make sure that each one of them understands how much that world can hurt them.
And while I may not be raising Superman, I want to raise men who are super—who learn to rely on God, to trust in Him, and who learn that even when they make a bad choice, they can learn from it, grow and move on.
I have to let them mess up.
I have to let them get hurt.
I have to let them face challenges.
Because that, beyond my parenting, is what also helps shape them into the men God wants them to become.