Can You Be the Bad Guy, Daddy?

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My son Elijah’s love for superheroes turns quite a few heads.

He doesn’t just watch “Spider-Man” cartoons and fiddle with his Iron Man action figure. He needs to dress the part. That means on any given day we share our home with a costume-clad youngster, sometimes two if Eli can convince brother Ben to join him in protecting the nation from evil doers.

If you haven’t shopped at Home Depot with Captain America I highly recommend it. The level of customer service jumps appreciably.

The downside to my son’s hero worship comes on the battlefield. It’s not enough for Eli to tug on his fake Hulk muscles and strategically ripped purple pants. He needs a villain to vanquish.

Enter me.

I’m always happy to play with the boys, but being on the receiving end of a tiny Hulk’s fists can wear a fella down. Our epic skirmishes are the first stage of a larger issue – roughhousing 101.

Boys like to get dirty, make a mess and get physical. How do I apply boundaries? How long is too long? What lessons are we teaching Ben, our one-year-old, with our fake fisticuffs? These aren’t the kind of questions I expected to face when I became a father. I dreaded giving the Birds and the Bees speech and explaining why Pop Pop won’t be visiting any more after his long illness.

Superhero etiquette never entered the picture until now.

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