Wonder Woman Taught Me How To Raise a Strong Son

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to see the latest re-imagining of Wonder Woman. She is someone who I always wanted to be when I grew up – not so much the Linda-Carter-strapless-swimsuit aspect but the smart-butt-kicking-lasso-wielding-cuff reflecting-invisible-jet-flying-character. When I asked my kids if any of them wanted to go, I had two takers – my 14 year old daughter and my 10 year old son. My daughter was a given but not necessarily my 10 year old son. I talked to him before hand to let him know this was serious movie. DC has always been darker than Marvel. He still wanted to come. In all fairness, I pretty sure it was the promise of theater popcorn that was the ultimate draw.

My expectations of the movie were exceeded. I hoped so much that this movie would give us a strong female who was a warrior and one with heart who fought for those who needed it. Nailed it! The fighting sequences were AMAAAAAAAAAAAZING. I actually wrote a note to myself to learn the knee-sliding-sword-slicing move. Gal Gadot was everything I wanted in a Wonder Woman.

FYI: Potential Spoilers from here on out.

What I didn’t expect to happen was that my 10 year old son would teach me a lesson before the movie was through. Without giving away too much, this movie has a lot of death. The writers do their job of making the viewers get connected to the characters before they kill them off. That’s their job and they’re good at it. Unfortunately, my 10 year old has a very soft heart. Feel free to judge me – I knowingly took a soft-hearted 10 year old to see a PG-13 movie. But I’m glad I did. He reminded me that for all the stereotypes we have for women, we have them for men as well.

After one scene in the movie, he asked me whether the character had died or not. I nodded my head and saw the devastation seep in his eyes. He did his best to sniff back the tears and wipe his eyes with his t-shirt as discretely as possible. I just patted his back and told him to not let it get to him. It’s not real. However, that statement made me a hypocrite. Why? At that point, I had already gotten teary-eyed at least four times. Basically, I was telling him it was okay for me to cry but not for him. Whenever he cries over something, I always tell him to toughen up or I roll my eyes and get frustrated. Boys aren’t supposed to cry so much, right? Says who?

He held it together the best he could until we got to the car. I was just getting ready to put the car in gear and drive off when he buckled himself up and proceeded to try to hide the fact that he was crying. Ask yourself while you’re reading this, what are your thoughts? Do you think he’s a sissy? A baby? Why? If it was a daughter crying and not a son, would it make a difference? I put the car in park, got out, went to his door, opened it, and put my arms around him. He immediately went on the defensive, “I know it’s not real but it’s just super sad!”

In that moment of holding my 10 year old while he was trying to defend his tears, my only goal was to make him understand that tears don’t make you weak. I tried to explain, “Someone once told me that a soft heart doesn’t make you weak. It means you feel things when others don’t want to. You feel things when others back away because they are uncomfortable. Having a soft heart doesn’t mean you’re weak. Nope. It means you’re strong. You’re strong because you’ll see things that others don’t and you’ll be able to help people that others won’t. Nothing is wrong with tears. Strong people cry because they refuse to hold onto something that will hurt them.”

Watching Wonder Woman made me realize a few things. She is not only a character embodying feminine power. She embodies power and the will to help everyone – female or not. Wonder Woman is not just a movie for women, it’s a movie for girls, boys, women,AND men. It’s for whoever can take something from what was said or what was seen and make a positive step because of it. A little too deep for a movie about a comic book character? Perhaps. I believe we find meaning anywhere and anytime we happen to be open to it.

My goals used to be to raise strong women and compassionate men. I’ve amended that. I want to raise strong, compassionate women and men. Some of the strongest men I know cry. Some of the softest women I know fight. It’s time to stop boxing people up with some inane, sexist assumptions. Honestly, I think our main focus in this life should be the same as Diana’s/Wonder Woman’s purpose and set out to help others. She is a great example to follow – whether you are a boy or a girl. Be a fighter when it’s needed. Be emotional when you need it. Most importantly, be yourself…whoever that may be.

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John Wayne + Thor = Dad

In everyone’s life, there are moments that leave us forever changed. The ones most of us share involve the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus. They are usually moments that hurl us from the cusp of childhood into an in between – not quite young adult but DEFINITELY not adult. The most life-changing realization for me was when I discovered that my dad was, in fact, human.

Let me start by saying that I am a stereotype – I’ve always been a Daddy’s Girl. He’s my friend, my buddy, my pal. He’s my confidant, my sounding board, my kick-in-the-butt-when-I-need-it deliverer (don’t judge my grammar right now – that’s not why we’re here…). He always seemed invincible. To the childhood me, he was an actual super hero – the strongest, toughest man ever. It’s like if John Wayne and Thor had a brother, that would be my dad.

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Growing up, my dad always made us stack wood. He could be frequently found running the wood splitter. When that thing kicked in, we all made a unanimous groan of dismay. One day, I heard the splitter and cringed as I REALLY hoped he wouldn’t come get me to work with him. A short time later, the splitter stopped and my dad was nowhere to be found. Apparently, he broke(?) his wrist when it became caught between the splitter and a piece of wood. Immediately after it happened, he knew he wasn’t going to be able to “walk it off” (his favorite piece of advice to us…) so he drove himself to the hospital. See. Super tough, right? Nothing could hurt him.

Unfortunately, as it will do, time had a way of cracking my safe bubble and thrusting me into reality. I saw my dad get hurt which was really weird for me. In comic books, when Superman or Thor would get hurt and the worst was assumed but the next issue would clear things up and we would see that their powers saved them. Even John Wayne could always find his way out of a nasty situation. (Except for in “The Shootist” and “The Cowboys”. We don’t talk about those.) I just always assumed the same thing would happen for my dad.

And unfortunately, as it will do, time changes things and people. It moves things in unexpected directions. We are expected to recalibrate, adjust, and move on. For an adult, it can be difficult. For a child, it’s dang near impossible.

When I turned 13, I knew the absolute truth – my dad was a human being. It freaked me the heck out. How could this have happened? Where was the infallible Superman I always knew? I was very unsettled but my dad, the human, seemed to know what to do. He laughed at my jokes – even when the were lame. He encouraged my dreams – even when they were foolish. He supported my choices – even when they were the stupidest decisions ever. He loved me – even when I was not very lovable. He became one of my most favorite humans…and still is. The most amazing thing happened, I realized that he was treating me like a human, like an equal. It turned out being human wasn’t so bad.

In spite of my caustic-smart alecky-sarcastic-sometimes brutal-self, he still doesn’t mind when I’m around. I think he’s actually one of my biggest fans. I mean, who could blame him? I AM pretty awesome. What is probably the most surprising thing is that even when I was a bratty little kid, he loved me and liked me. When I was a moody-goth-“woe is me”- preteen, he loved me and still liked me. When I was an antagonistic teen, he loved me and actually liked me…while dreaming of whopping my hind end.

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What it boils down to is this: dads are human and that’s okay. If you’re just discovering this truth, take a cleansing breath, have a good cry, and straighten your spine. It’s all good. The way I see it, not all superheroes are from another world with super powers. I mean, Batman doesn’t have any superpowers. He IS pretty rich and can just buy power, but we won’t get into that.

Let your dad be human. Let him make mistakes. Basically, let him be himself the way he does for you. If your dad has even 1/10 of the awesomeness mine does, cape or no cape, matching shirts or not, you’re pretty dang lucky.

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What’s that? You want to know what I meant about the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus? I may need some help with that…Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaddddd!