After two years in our care, our oldest grandson was able to enjoy his first ever weekend with his biological father and extended paternal family. Matthew had met his father once when he was four and again last summer when we took my daughter to college. (God’s hand in that coincidence was acknowledged) We enjoyed the visit and my grandson thrived on knowing he had more people out in the world who love him.
They spoke sporadically on the phone, skyped some, but mostly kept in contact through my Facebook posts. His father became a hero of near mythic proportions in my grandson’s heart.
When I received the information for parents weekend at my daughter’s college, I offered to bring him down for a whole weekend visit. The joy on both the part of the father and the son (and all the extended family) was overwhelming, so much so, that when finances threatened to cancel the trip, my husband and I agreed to make the sacrifice. I would drive down with just my grandson and my husband would stay home with everyone else. Our romantic weekend away in Florida would be a weekend sleeping on my sister’s couch.
Matthew spent an amazing weekend with his father, stepmother, grandmother, and a whole host of uncles, aunts and cousins. Extended family he hadn’t even known existed two years ago. When I picked him up on Sunday night it was obvious they had all been crying. A weekend of goofy jokes, midnight ice cream, four-wheeling in the sand dunes and working on motorcycles had made a huge impression on my impressionable 13 year old boy. Our fifteen hour drive back to Maryland was full of repeated stories of how amazing his father was and what a great man he is. I’m not one to burst his bubble, so I listened and agreed. All the while biting my tongue on the harsh words I keep in the recesses of my heart.
Now is the hard part.. we break back into reality. Homework, chores and rules. Disagreements over breakfast and bedtime and computer privileges. Coming back from a wonderful vacation in the sun is always hard, but to have to compete with the image of the ultimate Superman made me a little bitter. Where is Superman when the homework needs to be reviewed and we are begging teachers for an extra day to redo some botched algebra homework? Where is Superman when lunches need to be made and laundry needs to be put away? I was definitely bitter when I returned to work on Tuesday. I had to create breakfast from a near empty pantry and scrape together bag lunches while Superman handed the boy ninety bucks to buy a new pair of shoes. The boy doesn’t need a new pair of shoes.. especially not ninety dollar shoes when his feet won’t stop growing and he still insists on running through mud and muck whenever he gets a chance.
It took a wonderful friend to point out that although right now his dad is his superhero, anyone can be a superhero for a day. The boy will one day realize that we are the daily superheroes. The ones who get up with him everyday, who make sure he goes to school and get homework done. We are the ones who pray with him at dinner and get them sprite when he has the stomach bug. It still felt wrong, I was still eating myself up with jealousy.
I realized we were both right. I am an everyday superhero.. but so is his dad. Not in the “I’m going to pay appropriate child support, call regularly, help with encouraging school work, scouts or sports”, but in this boy’s heart. This ridiculously dorky pre-teen boy has had enough disappointments in his life for me not to ruin this illusion for him. Every kid needs to dream of a better place. To know that out there in the world is someone who loves them more than life itself. While he may not be a real superhero, and he can’t take on more responsibility than the occasional visit or call, he can be everything to a little boy who has lost so much. He can be Superman, Santa and Walt Disney all rolled into one. He can be the rock star out on the open road. I’ll be here, washing the dishes, coordinating birthday parties and hunting for lost baseball cleats.
Being a parent isn’t about being the best loved… its about being one of the many who love a child and help him to grow into a man, whether its for a weekend, or everyday, we both have to play our part.