I was at the mall play area with my five-year-old, Norah, when Batman showed up.
The play area was made of soft foam animals accompanied by a massive foam tree that had a slide coming out of it. All of it was a mix of earth colors and neon. There was a red wall around the play area with a soft bench attached.
My wife was shopping for school shoes with Tristan, our oldest, and Aspen, our new baby, so I was sitting and watching Norah play. She was standing on a big rubber butterfly, taking a trip to “Princess Island” when Batman entered.
It wasn’t the real Batman, naturally, just a kid dressed like Batman. He must have been five or six. The costume was obviously for an older child, because the sleeves and legs had been crudely cut to fit his arms and legs, but he didn’t seem to mind. Batman walked with a confident strut as he entered the play area. But hey, why not… he was Batman. I’ve seen the meme, “Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Always be Batman.”
Norah and Batman were the only two kids in the play area at the time. Batman approached Norah. She was sitting on a foam butterfly, riding it like a horse. first and told her he was looking for bad guys behind that tree.
“I’m going to get those bad guys and tie them up, and beat them!”
Batman spoke in a husky Batman voice, and his hands moved violently. His jaw was tense, and a stream of saliva followed many of his words.
He was a little stick of testosterone.
Norah was a little shocked by his intensity. And I was, too. My first thought was, “This kid is crazy.”
I looked in Norah’s eyes, and assumed that she felt the same way. I assumed that I’d raised her to be able to tell when it was best to just walk away from someone. But instead, she looked at Batman with dreamy eyes and told him that she was on her way to “Princess Island.”
Batman asked if that’s where the bad guys were.
“Yes,” Norah said. “That’s where they are. Get on my butterfly.”
I put my head in my hands and thought, I never want Norah to ask another boy to “get on her butterfly” ever again.
Suddenly they were both sitting together, Batman in front, and Norah behind him, her arms wrapped around his waist, legs straddling his hips. It looked like they were on a motorcycle, or something, and all I could think was, Norah, you could do better.
As a father, I try not to think about boys being attracted to my daughter. I also try not to think about my daughter being attracted to boys, yet Norah likes to tell me about all her “boy friends” regularly, and it’s difficult for me to not want to commit murder. She is in such a rush to meet that prince charming, fall in love, and get married, while I would rather lock her in a tower for the next 30 years or so until until I can find her the “right man” and make sure she is mature enough to have a successful marriage. A lot of this comes down to the fact that I’ve known a few douche bags. During my teen years, I was one. I’ve seen a few divorces. I’ve seen what happens when teens get pregnant, and I know that until I was nearly 30, sex was my number one priority. This didn’t always help me to make the best decisions.
Long story short, when it comes to my daughter, I often feel scared. I often feel like she needs the most guidance, because there is so much peril out there. So many immature dreamy guys ready to say what she wants to hear. All of this is more of a reflection on me than it is society and Norah, but never the less, it has made me protective.
Norah and Batman ran through the tree together. Their game was a mixed up hunt for bad guys and princes, each one taking turns leading the way. Every once in a while, Batman would start beating the crap out of a foam frog or turtle, saying that it was a bad guy, and Norah would stand back and watch him, her eyes filled with longing, as though he were fighting for her love.
As I watched, I thought about taking Norah out. I thought about taking her somewhere else. I thought getting her away from Batman. But I didn’t know what that said about me as a father. I knew that what they were doing was harmless, and yet all of it made me uncomfortable.
This kid was living a lie. He was trying to be something he wasn’t, a great superhero, and Norah was falling for it. I wanted to take her aside and teach her about players and manipulators, and how important it is to realize that the real Batman is a boy with good morals and goals. The kind of boy who will treat her with love and compassion, and not just some assclown in a costume that rides a nice butterfly.
At one point, Norah and Batman were sitting next to each other at the top of the tree slide. They were taking a break from their game, when Batman reached out and held Norah’s hand. I freaked out a little, stood to put an end to it, but stopped when Norah punched Batman in the face. Then she went down the slide, walked across the play area, and onto the butterfly.
She was flying home.
Batman started crying. He ran to his father, who’d been playing with his smartphone and missed the whole thing.
Norah looked at me, and smiled, and suddenly, I felt better about Norah’s ability to spot the real Batman.
You would also enjoy, Sometimes Parenting Means Cleaning Up Crap: Physical and Metaphorical
Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley