Perhaps I’m eating my words today. A while back I wrote a post about how the teen years didn’t need to be painful. Still true, (sort of) but today that truth is colored by an emerging revelation: I’m annoying. And smothering. Yep, somehow overnight I’ve gone from humorous to teeth-gritting irritating.
Now, I know this is a phase, and likely a normal one as our daughter moves from dependency to indepence, but it still hurts. And if I’m not careful, I’ll allow my heart to lead, turning into her friend rather than her parent. Only that would not be an act of love. That would be an act of selfishness. Love takes the hard route, does the hard things, says the hard things, regardless how the other person will respond.
This is especially true in parenting. Oh, how we long to have special, giggly moments with her our children. How we long to be their friends. But we’re not. We’ve got a God-given responsibility to raise them with diligence and excellence. And at times, that may make us look like the enemy. But love looks past the present and the emotions involved. Love looks for the good of others and does whatever it takes to see that person succeed and grow closer to their Savior.
I found today’s story almost comical. It’s a snapshot into a father’s life where this friendship thing is taken to the extreme, but hopefully the humorous extreme will encourage us to evaluate our parenting. Are we doing everything we know to do to see our children grow, or are we seeking the path of least resistance?
Mild-mannered janitor Dave Johnson set the cardboard skyscraper upright again in the model city erected on his steel gray living room carpet.
He tugged down his Spider-Man pajama top and sent a scolding glance at his dimpled nine-year-old. “Derrick, you shouldn’t have dropped him like that.”
Derrick scratched his head. “But, Dad, you said Superman got hit with a missile.”
When would his son ever learn?
At least Derrick still cared, unlike Dave’s eldest. “A missile isn’t going to knock Superman out of the sky, son. He’s invulnerable. He might be fazed, but he’d pop right back up.”
Derrick nodded. “That makes sense.”
“All right, so get him back in the sky.”
Derrick lifted Superman back above the cardboard model of Metropolis.
Naomi called from the kitchen, “Dinner!”
Derrick wrinkled his nose. “Aw, Mom—”
“—now, son.” Dave wagged a finger. “We’ve talked about this. You need to eat.”
“But what’s going to happen to Lois Lane?”
Dave mussed Derrick’s bushy hair, black like his own. “We’ll find out tomorrow, Champ.”
He glanced to their chipped oak entertainment center. The DVD player’s clock read 4:37 p.m. Time to get ready for work. He jogged into the master bedroom, stripped off his vintage Spider-Man PJ’s, and changed into the stone gray coveralls Naomi had laid out for him on her girly yellow comforter, which covered their Queen Anne style bed.
Where was his government-issued, navy blue baseball cap? He usually left it on the stack of red milk crates filled with the newer additions to his comic book collection. He spotted it atop his collection of every superhero DVD box set known to man. Grinning, he snatched the hat up. Aha. No lowly work accessory could outsmart Mild-Mannered Janitor Dave Johnson.
He set the cap askew on his head, patted his breast pocket, and hit thin plastic. Good. Not only would it be embarrassing if he lost his security pass a third time this month, he’d incur another $25 fine, and Naomi wouldn’t let him buy the Wonder Woman action figure he needed to complete his Justice League collection.
The door flung open. Naomi stood outside it in a perfectly pressed navy pants suit, her sharp, side-parted ebony bob curling a bit under her chin. Trouble brewed in eyes the same color as her favorite Starbucks brew: a half-caf, non-fat grande latte with sugar-free chocolate syrup and exactly four packets of Splenda. “Dave, we need to talk.”
She folded her arms. “How about our life and supposed marriage?”
Dave brushed past her into the living room. “I don’t have time for this.”
“You never have time!” She stomped up alongside him. “You get up after I leave for work. And you leave a few minutes after I get home.”
“Wait up for me, and we’ll talk when I get in.”
“At two a.m?”
“That’s as good a time as any.” Dave fled to the kitchen and sighed at the dining nook’s empty claw-foot pedestal table. Naomi had the boys eating dinner in their room again? Funny how that always coincided with the flow of lava. He grabbed his X-Men lunchbox from the stainless steel side-by-side refrigerator. He headed for the door to the attached two-car garage.
Naomi ran ahead and blocked his getaway. “We talk now.”
He looked at his silver bat signal watch. She was making him late. “Fine, two minutes.”
“I’m concerned about the kids.”
Dave stiffened. “What? You don’t think I’m a good father?”
“You’ve been great teaching them to be little boys, but you can’t play Superman with them forever. They need someone who can help them through difficult times. Someone who can show them how to be men.”
“And why can’t I?”
“Look at yourself, Dave! You make me pack your dinner in the same lunchbox James used in kindergarten! You don’t buy all that superhero stuff for the kids.”
Dave crossed his arms. “I work hard for this family!”
Naomi flicked her index finger at Dave. “You’ve been at the same job a decade. You’re not twenty-three anymore. You need to grow up for the kids’ sake—and for me.”
“And for you?”
“Yes, and for me! Do you know how long it’s been since we’ve been together? Nine months. It’s like, all you wanted were James and Derrick, and, as soon as you got them, you forgot all about me.”
“I’m the same man you married. You’re the one who’s changed.” He glanced at her pink polished nails. A sandy-haired Mary Jane met him at the altar twelve years ago. So how did he end up married to Lois Lane?
“What’s happened to you?”
“I grew up, Dave.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
She took the hint and moved out of his way. “This isn’t over!”
Dave slammed the door behind him. Why couldn’t she understand? Superheroes did things he could only dream of. He wasn’t playing silly games; he was sharing his dreams with the kids. It wasn’t like his hobby kept him from working. He always brought home his paycheck, and he never complained about the tight hold Lois—er, Naomi—kept on the purse strings.
He climbed in his pick-up truck and backed out into traffic. He glanced at the empty seat. “You don’t want to talk.” He returned his gaze to the road. “You want to scream at me until I change into some boring Ken Doll in a suit who golfs and does all the things the big bosses do at your work. You say I don’t listen, but at least I let you talk. The only time I can talk to you is when you’re not here. When you’re here, I can hear you, but—”
Dave swallowed. He’d rather be beaten up by a tag team of the Rhino and Doctor Octopus. It’d be less painful.
A freckled little boy on a bike darted out in front of him. Dave slammed his brakes hard.
The truck stopped inches from the kid. Dave lowered his head onto the steering column. The boy cursed and rode away.
Calm down, or you’ll kill somebody.
“This looks like a job for Superman.” Dave pressed the play button on his CD player. The old time radio crackled over his truck’s speakers. From a crowd in Metropolis, a woman shouted, “Look, up in the sky!”
By the time the narrator said, “And now for our story,” the pain had eased.
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