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!

 

 

 

 

I Still Can’t Fly But That’s Okay

When I was growing up, I loved watching “Bewitched” reruns. I was convinced if I just practiced I could tap into my own magical powers. For what seemed like hours, I practiced my nose twitching skills hoping for some kind of results. Alas, the soap in the dish never moved. My room was never spotless when I returned to it. When it was clear my nose held no power, I moved on to reading minds. I know what you’re thinking – such a silly girl. Maybe not so silly since I knew what you were thinking just then. Anyhow, after realizing mind-reading wasn’t one of my powers, I moved on to flying. I won’t go into all of the details but by the time I was done, I ruined a couple of  umbrellas, fell out of a couple of trees, twisted an ankle or two, and ripped up a good pair of jeans. Miraculously, I never broke any bones. I think that is because I was never foolish enough to try and jump off of the roof of my house. That would be crazy! I’m was (and still am) too afraid of heights to do that. That realization along with my failures cemented the fact that flying was just not my thing. I kept trying and trying different things in hope of tapping into any dormant powers. Then something truly horrible happened – I hit puberty. Even worse? I started to care what people thought of me.

I forgot all about my undiscovered powers. My new quest was to try to fit in. As the third of four children, I felt like the oddball. It didn’t matter if it was true – I mean I did try to fly – it made me feel very unsure of myself. Everyone in my family was athletic or at least coordinated. I’ve been hopelessly awkward from the word go. I tried basketball, softball, volleyball, and track. How did I do you ask? Please view this painfully accurate portrayal:

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Any other questions? I’d like to say that by the time I hit high school I figured things out, but I’d be lying. Matter of fact, I still haven’t quite figured myself out, but I’m getting to the point where I’m okay with that.

So what about my special powers? Well, it’s only been in the past 10ish years that I’ve started thinking about all of that again. I’ve refreshed my love of super heroes and magical beings. I love Harry Potter, Lord of The Rings, basically anything magical and mythical. As adult as I may be, I guess my desire to tap into any undiscovered powers hasn’t died. My quest just changed a little to find a hero to look up to. The main reason? I have two daughters. From the time they were very young, I have wanted them to have an example to emulate. There had to be someone out there.

About a year ago, I had the opportunity to ask author Deborah Harkness some questions regarding her book Discovery of Witches. We were discussing strong female role models and she stated that we all are strong and powerful we just haven’t realized it yet. She went on to say, “Often, though, [we] are afraid of [our] own power and try to be invisible. We all do that. Owning your own power is a scary thing.” ¹ Wait. What?

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It was an amazing conversation and we discussed the idea of being afraid of ourselves. She finished her comments to me saying, “We all have power. But most of us are frightened to use it and own it. Find yours. It’s there. And it won’t look like anyone else’s power. It’s all–and only–for you!”¹ I was almost in tears. Oh how I wish my 12 year old self could have had that conversation. It’s not that she was telling me that I may have the power to fly, read minds, or be able to shoot laser beams (yeah…I forgot to mention that one). It made me realize that we discount ourselves when we try to be like someone else.

This past April a friend of mine shared a conversation she overheard between her daughter and a classmate. The classmate asked her daughter who her favorite superhero was. Her daughter’s response was (and still is) the best thing I’ve read all year: “Myself.”

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At 10, “B” (we need to protect her secret identity) already knows what I still am trying to work out at 40. WE ARE OUR OWN SUPER HEROES. That is the attitude we need to be teaching our children and more specifically to our daughters, granddaughters, and nieces. I had a conversation with a seven year old girl about who could get Thor’s hammer if he died or retired. (Hey…it was a very serious conversation.) She told me I couldn’t have Thor’s hammer because I was a girl. I, of course, cleared that misconception. Girls all around us don’t realize how powerful they are. Women all around us have given up because they don’t think they are as powerful as someone else. Stop comparing yourself to someone else. Stop trying to be a “new” version of someone else. That’s not how it works!!!

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Let me repeat Ms. Harkness’s words:

We all have power. But most of us are frightened to use it and own it. Find yours. It’s there. And it won’t look like anyone else’s power. It’s all–and only–for you!”¹

We are all so uniquely powerful. Why are we so afraid to be different? No little girl should ever be told she can’t do something because it’s just for boys. No woman should ever be ashamed of “just being a mother” or being career woman. Your power doesn’t look like anyone else’s.

I want to issue a challenge for us all. You are your own superhero – find your powers. I’m still working on mine. I still can’t fly but that’s okay. I’m doing my best to help my girls realize theirs. Don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t be afraid to be a girl. And most importantly, please remember that “ you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” ²

Sources:

¹ Harkness, Deborah. “I’m Deborah Harkness, Author of the #1 Bestselling ALL SOULS TRILOGY and Professor of the History of Science. AMA!” Reddit, 2015, http://www.reddit.com/r/books/comments/396671/im_deborah_harkness_author_of_the_1_bestselling/cs0w1r9/?context=3.

² Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin , Karl Guers, director. Walt Disney, 1997.