We talk about heroes a lot in our house. Heroes are at the center of most of the play and interaction — they also love to see acts of courage by all their favorite superheroes. But, I also look back at my own childhood, and I see the lessons that I’ve learned… Those lessons have helped me to get through even the darkest days.
Jurassic Park Lessons
While we didn’t have the famous dinosaurs (or heroic characters) from Jurassic Park to learn from when I was a kid, we had stories that taught us many of the same (or similar) lessons. We even had Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World, which offers examples of the interaction of heroes and monsters in an isolated, untouched landscape.
In books and other forms of entertainment, monsters come in all shapes and size. Even as we are enamored with the magnificent possibilities, certain harsh realities hold true:
- Playing with fire will (almost certainly) end in disaster. Yep, you’ll get burned.
- Heroes often are revealed in the most unexpected forms and places.
- Science is not always the be-and-end all.
- One of the consistent themes of the modern-day Jurassic Park stories is: “Life finds a way.” In other words, survival wins out.
In one sense, the monster stories are sad, because we often see the worst examples of humanity. But, a hero always steps forward to save the day. Yes, it’s melodramatic; but I want my kids to see the best possible outcome — no matter what.
Iron Man Lessons
And, yes, Iron Man was a part of my childhood as well. After all, who isn’t somewhat fascinated by Tony Stark, the infamous (and ever-controversial) Iron Man? More than an alien superhero like Superman, he’s a man (albeit arrogant, reckless and impetuous). He’s got all the money he could possibly need to create Justice, but his choices dance on the very edge of an abyss.
While Bruce Wayne fakes the playboy personae as an alibi or act of misdirection — to allow him to seek justice in Gotham — Tony Stark is larger than life, enjoying the attention, publicity, and even the criticism. As a counterpoint to some of his elaborate extravagances, Tony does offer himself up as a hero, one that we can all look up too, and certainly one that I can see my kids emulating.
- When it comes right down to it, he does have a moral compass (though he doesn’t always demonstrate it well). He does the “right thing,” even when it isn’t always fun.
- He’s a connector. Even with his abrasive personality (at times) he brings the Avengers together. He also surrounds himself with smart people (Pepper is a great example).
- He’s also a perfect example of the Type-A personality, who works hard, with single-minded, obsessive purpose. Key people around him continually pull him out of that mind-set, reminding him that there’s more to life than work.
- Money isn’t all. Yes, he’s a billionaire. He can do or buy anything he wants, but when it comes right down to it, there are still simple realities of life that can’t be purchased with all the money in the world.
While so many of us focus on the pile of money that Tony Stark throws around, there are more important lessons to be learned form Iron Man (and all that he represents).
- Always do the right thing…
- A hero must protect those who can’t protect themselves.
- Technology offers access to knowledge, but it also must be used with discretion toward the “right”
- There’s always hope, even in the darkest hour…
As I watch my son play with toys, I’m transported back to my own childhood. I see the lessons I’ve learn. I appreciate the many realities that my son is learning as he plays, but it’s also sad. When did he get so old.
Now, he plays with passionate fervor. He loves the dinosaur, Iron Man and Transformer; and he already knows the history behind it all. I know he’s learned a great deal from me, and I’m proud of him (for all he’s learned, and who he is becoming). But, some part of me still wishes that he was that little boy, small and still as I rocked him to sleep (telling him stories of superheroes, and assuring him that a hero would always be there to protect him, until that day when he could become a superhero himself).
Most importantly of all… I want him to remember: Hope is always present — even hidden, illusive, and obscured.
Thanks to Playskool Heroes for sending over the most popular toys of 2015 (at least in my house). Although my kids love the playsets (and they now want to sleep with them) — all opinions are entirely my own (laments and all).