SOPHIA - 17
the focus on Superheroes, who does a child look to for protection?
For his or her role model of Vigilance. In this timely story, G-Ma
Lori shares the excitement of imagination with her grandchildren, but, as
a Grandmother of Vigilance, she is cautious to include the difference
between "make believe" super-heroes and "real" superheroes--the kind who run
into burning buildings to save women and children, the kind who don't make
the covers of comics, but each day provide a child with all the
protections that make believe superheroes pretend to offer.)
YOU CAN BE A
SUPER HERO, TOO
“G-Ma, did you know
Spiderman doesn’t use any guns or weapons when he saves people and does
good things? He spins and shoots webs from his hands and…he sticks to the
sides of building and… he even can climb up on top of the Empire State
Building if he wants to.”
My five-year-old grandson, Matt, held my hand and skipped next to me
as he gushed out the description of the media’s newest super hero. His
eyes were ablaze with excitement as he expounded on the current fame of
Spider-Man, the recreation of the old Marvel Comic’s hero, introduced four
decades ago in August 1962.
His three-year-old sister, Sarah, and I were
attempting to exit the crowded courtyard of his school. Matt is
impassioned with storytelling on our walks home from kindergarten. Sarah
and I had no choice but to listen as he trumpeted out the incredible
superhuman capabilities his latest
super hero possessed. He spun his words as quickly as Spidey weaves and
shoots his webs.
“G-Ma, he got his super powers after he was
bitten by a REAL spider that was experimented on so it was a super
spider. Spider-Man got all of the spider’s super powers from the bite.
Now he can do everything that super spiders can do.” Matt’s eyes flashed
up at me, waiting for my response.
“Can he catch bees and flies in our backyard like a real spider,
Matt?” asked three-year-old Sarah.
“I guess if he wanted to, Sarah. But he spins
bigger webs and catches bigger bugs like a burglar-bug or a
bully-bug.” Matt grinned up at me, spread open his arms as web like as
he could, looking quite unlike Spider-Man and more like an awkward preying
mantis. He followed his mantis-look-alike act by clapping his hands
together and shouting: “Gotcha, Sarah! That’s a good one, right G-Ma?”
“Be careful, Matt, watch out for the other
people walking on the street, please.” I guided him to the storefront side
of the sidewalk, away from the throng of parents and kids, grandparents
and kids and caretakers/nannies picking up their charge and the cars,
buses, trucks and taxis rushing down 14th Street.
“Sarah, come over here, too, little one.”
“Okay, G-Ma buggy-bug, okay.” Matt and Sarah
often called me silly nonsense names. I didn’t mind a bit as long as the
attributes weren’t too gruesome.
Matt is an innate caretaker. He exhibits
extraordinary kindness toward his little sister. He followed his clever
exhibition by grabbing Sarah’s hand from mine and coaxing her to play
Spider-Man all the way home.
“Matt, I’m NOT Spider-Man. I’m…….I’m…..Wonder
Woman! She has magic in her and turns into Spider-Girl, no…” she paused
reflectively, “… into Spider-Woman. I’m Spider-Woman! I have spider
clothes over my Wonder Woman outfit. I can climb up sides of buildings
just as good as you, Spider-Man.” She tore herself out of his grip and
hopped up onto the steps of the Church adjoining Matt’s school.
Sarah did not like playing the loser, or the weaker sex when my two
super-grandkids played their intense make-believe after-school games.
Leaping down, she deftly spread her arms simulating airplane wings and
metamorphosed them into an imaginary cape. She ran ahead of us yelling
“SpI-I-I-I-I-der Wo-man to the rescue!” at the top of her genetically
“You can’t be BOTH, Sarah.” Matt derided her super-combo-hero image.
Huffing, he discontinued his Spider-Man antics, and tried to catch up to
his swift and sure-footed sister.
“Hey, you wild woman, Sarah. Come here and
hold my hand. You know G-Ma needs to have you right next to her on the
“Okay, G-Ma, wild woman yourself” she smartly tossed back at me. I
took her outstretched hand and hugged it in my palm. Matt skipped along
next to me dutifully grasping my other hand. A super boy and a super girl
on either side, I thought. I’m safe from any “Green Goblin,” I mused.
“G-Ma were any of the super heroes just regular boys like me?”
Matt’s blue eyes ignited. His questions were like raindrops kissing the
arid earth, the parched pores eager to soak up drops of information that
he hoped would sprout into more knowledge, more awareness of the reasons
the world spun at 1,000 miles per hour under his feet.
“You can be one, too, Matt.” Sarah wanted to appease her brother. As
is the nature of women, whether three or sixty-three, she knew when it was
time to preen his “man feathers.” Her Voice was conciliatory,
apologizing in her precocious adolescent way for acting silly (in his eyes) and
irritating him. She slowed down and walked at our pace so she could hear
more about the super heroes.
* * *
I loved the walk home with the kids in the late
afternoon. This was undoubtedly my learning time of the day. The
kids were really my teachers. It was a give and take, not merely a time
to impart important data or creative thoughts to Matt and Sarah. I
contributed as much information as I gave on any given subject. Many
times I was the student and they the teachers. I appreciated their
viewpoints, their takes on things I had accepted as fact.
I chuckled, thinking back to when my brothers attempted to fly out
of the neighbor’s glorious maple tree.
They stood on the ‘take off’ limb
with arms outspread, an old sheet flapping around their necks to form they
make-believe cape. Just before they jumped from the tree limb, they
yelled: “Geronimo…it’s Superman to the rescue!” Instead of zooming off
into the sky faster than a speeding bullet, they landed kerplunk on the
old mattress beneath, dutifully put there to absorb their inability to
I can still hear them yelling: “…faster than a speeding bullet, more
powerful than a locomotive,” … and, “look, up in the sky! It’s a
bird…it’s a plane…No, it’s Superman!” Endlessly full of energy, they ran
around the yard seemingly fueled by the illusion they were endowed with
“What’s so funny, G-Ma?” Matt
tugged at my backpack belt, forcing my wandering thoughts out
of the past into the present. “Tell me about Superboy?”
“Superboy wasn’t a regular boy before growing
up to become Superman. He looked like an ordinary boy but he was from a planet
called Krypton. His parents sent him by rocket to Earth because their
planet was dying. The rocket crash landed in Kansas. He was found by two
farmers, Jon and Martha Kent. They adopted him and named him Clark.”
“Did he already have his powers when he got on Earth, G-Ma?” Matt
was like a sponge, soaking up all the knowledge around him to fill the
holes created by his questions.
“Well, Matt, when he was born he had the capacity to have all his
super powers. His planet, Krypton, was very heavy. So he could fly
here. You know gravity, right Matt.”
“Yes. At the Natural History Museum I weighed
myself on the moon scale. I didn’t weigh much. Gravity isn’t strong on
“That’s right, Matt. And the earth was like the moon to Superboy.
He could jump and fly because he was so light—like a feather. And, he had
a powerful brain.”
“Like a special brain?” Matt asked.
“Yes. As I understand it, your brain, and Sarah’s, too, has
thousands of little electrical-like charges zapping about called
synapses. The more stimulation, that is, interaction with people--toys to
play with, exercise for example, you have as a baby--causes lots of
stimuli to the synapses. The more synapses that are utilized, the more
your brain powers grow.”
I was trying to simplify a difficult concept and hoped I explained
it so they could grasp my meaning. I pulled them closer to me and gave
them walking hugs as I continued.
“ Superboy gained his strength by absorbing energy from our sun. By
the time he became an adult he had learned how to fly, to fire heat vision
from his eyes and see through walls.”
“Wow, G-Ma, I didn’t know he could do all that.”
Matt was impressed. Sarah added, “I didn’t either, G-Ma. I know Superman
fights bad guys. Can Matt learn to see through walls if he
has lots of ‘snapses?”
“No, Sarah, and you and the rest of us humans
can’t either. However, you both have Vigilant parents who help to
stimulate your thinking processes and that is a great reason why you and
Matt are so smart and creative today.
They also teach you to care about others, just like Superman and
Spider-Man. Superman and Spider-Man rescue the helpless. They have a
sense of morals and justice as strong and unshakeable as a rock just like
your mommy and daddy. Your parents are Super Heroes too, they want to
help people but they don’t wear capes or shoot webs from their hands.”
I smiled as I looked down at my two little
superkids. Their eyes were glued on me. I stopped next to a drugstore
for a few minutes to share the superheroes trivia I had gleaned from
Google.com a few days before. I knew their interest would wane when we
got home and their toys beckoned them.
“We have Superman capes, G-Ma.” Sarah reminded me. “We have one for me,
one for Matt, one for Mommy and one for Daddy. You and G-Pa can use
Mommy’s and Daddy’s if you want to play Superman tonight.”
I admired the simple but functional capes my daughter made for the
kids. They consisted of a rectangular shaped piece of red cottony
material and simply knotted around the neck. I was amazed at how many
times the little ones put them on to play an action super hero bent on
“Yes, little super girl,
I remember your clever mommy made capes for us to wear when
it was Superhero time. I think G-Pa will definitely want to
join in on the super fun festivities this evening when he comes
wanted to be Superman so much when he was a little boy. When
he was your age, Matt, he would dash into a phone booth or into
an alley and unbutton his shirt expecting to see the Golden
S on a muscular fully costumed chest.”
“Wow, G-Ma, did he change into Superman? Did he?” Matt’s blue eyes
shone as brilliantly as the blue in Superman’s costume.
“No, G-Pa was a genuine boy, not a Superboy.
He couldn’t turn into Superman. He tried for many years hoping to be the
“ G-Ma, what about girls? Everyone says Auntie E is Wonder Woman
and I’m just like her, an ‘amzon’ girl. Was Wonder Woman a little girl
just like me?
Sarah and her Auntie E were indeed
amazons. Sarah’s aunt took great pride in being super fit. She
excels in sports
and her job as a federal undercover agent requires her to maximize her
physical stamina, but she retains her beauty and grace as a feminine
woman. Many friends of the family comment on how Sarah reminds them of
Auntie E. Sarah already was unbelievably coordinated and strong like her
aunt. One of Auntie E’s coworkers complimented Sarah with “Your little
niece is an amazon just like you, E.”
Sarah continued with her questions. “Where did Wonder Woman come
from, G-Ma? Were her parents aliens from outer space, too?” She thrust
her hand into mine and forcefully ejected Matt from my side, taking
command. Her face displayed that look of dominance over the situation
and me, her after-school information source.
“G-Ma,” Matt whined, “Sarah shoved and pushed me. She’s in my
spot.” He tried to wrench her hand free of mine but was unsuccessful, a
scowl furrowed on his forehead where a few minutes earlier he had been
beaming with excitement.
“Hey, little ones. Let’s all calm down and
practice patience a bit. Matt, I answered some of your questions and now
it’s Sarah’s turn.”
I didn’t have to referee too often. It wasn’t that unusual for Sarah
to get the better of Matt in the few physical spats they enjoyed. Both
their parents dissuaded them from any and all degrees of violence.
Sarah pushed Matt away with her balled up fist. “Sarah, no more
punching Matt, please.” Sarah awkwardly winked at me, one of those “Ya-Ya
Sisterhood” winks that women share regardless of age.
I was up on my information about Wonder Woman.
Sarah’s aunt E was teasingly (and admiringly) called Wonder Woman for her
physical agility and daring. I checked either side of me to ensure there
were no ongoing arguments and both superkids were ready to listen, then
continued our “educational march” toward their apartment. I leaned over
as we walked and spoke so they could both hear me.
“Wonder Woman was the creation of Dr. William Moulton Marston and
Charles (Max) Gaines, the head of Detective (DC) Comics. You both know
she has great strength, power of flight, bullet-deflecting bracelets and
lots of classy style. Dr. Marston was an educational consultant for
Detective Comics. He saw only images of super men such as Green Lantern,
Batman, Superman and other male heroes. He wondered why there wasn’t a
female hero. He was the creator of the lie detector test and was
convinced that women were more honest and reliable than men and could work
faster and more accurate over time. Dr. Marston championed the causes of
“I don’t understand, G-Ma. What’s a champion of women?” Matt’s
concern and the questions in Sarah’s eyes made me realize I had given a
three and a five-year-old too much information, expecting them to
understand it all. I needed to simplify my super tale, I thought.
“A ‘champion of women’ is someone who respects and honors women.
The two men created a comic book character that would be respected and
honored as well as one who was strong and beautiful. They combined their
talents and their names, and so Wonder Woman was developed by … Charles
“G-Ma, Charles is from the Comic Book man and Moulton is from the
Doctor. I get it.”
I wasn’t surprised that Professor Matt would pick up on the name
combination. “Wonder Woman embodies the true-to-life-true
fantasy characteristics of women and girls everywhere. I mean that most
women and girls want to be like her. Her magic lasso is a symbol of her
charm, allure, and attraction of every woman and/or man she uses that
power on whom she wants to influence or control in any way.”
“G-Ma, the Wonder Woman doll you gave me has a lasso, too, a gold one. It
fits on my doll and she can throw it.” Sarah demonstrated on Matt trying
to throw the sleeve of her sweater over his head. Matt shrieked.
“Make her stop, G-Ma. I’m so tired of
her bothering me.” Matt shrugged in disgust and glared at
his impish sister. He wasn’t in to hearing about super heroes who were
women. But I also knew his great hero was his sister. He protected her
with a ferocity equal to a pit bull when anyone tried to hurt her
feelings, or in any way threatened her physical or emotional self. I knew
he would like to know the history of Wonder Woman even though he huffed
and grumped about it.
I loved reading about the history behind Wonder Woman. Her
creators knew what women and men wanted in a Super Hero. In 1940 they
created a “psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should
rule the world.” They realized the remedy of the weak woman was to create
a character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a
good and beautiful woman. Instead of tossing a weapon, Wonder Woman
tosses words, glances, gestures, and best of all, laughter. She snares
the attention of her would-be victim and binds him or her with her charm.
Wonder Woman’s charm is the one bond that can be made strong enough to
hold onto logic, common sense, or counterattack. I wondered what the
hardcore women libbers think about Wonder Woman. I was with Sarah--I
wanted to be Wonder Woman, too, but, I didn’t want to confuse my little
ones any more than I already had, so I didn’t tell them all the facts I
had found out in googling the Internet.
“But G-Ma, where did she come from? I asked you that
already.” Sarah’s face contorted into her sour apple-faced grimace. She
could distort her facial features and expressions in an instant ranging
from a lovely angel to a rascally clown in the short span of a New York
“Right, Sarah, I didn’t forget. I just wanted
to tell you most of what I know about Wonder Woman. Let’s see if I
remember. Oh, yes, she was a cavewoman’s child. She survived time and
entered a powerful society of women whose greatest champion is one who
leaves the security of home to venture into our world. She was a Princess
on an island hidden in space and has come to be one of Earth’s greatest
warriors. Like Superman, she dons her uniform when needed by the helpless
or people being scared or Terrorized by bad people.
name is Diana of Themyscira. Her golden coronet or crown is a constant
symbol of our nation and our hope and dreams. And, Matt and Sarah, be sure
to tell your mom, she is also an ambassador of peace just like your mommy
As we neared their apartment, my Spiderboy-Matt and my Wondergirl
Sarah raced to press their building’s ‘buzzard’. Sarah’s strong legs and
dogged determination to be first overshadowed Matt’s vainglorious attempt
to beat her. Sarah pushed the button and glanced over her shoulder
“G-Ma, it was my turn to buzz.” Matt’s eyes
brimmed with tears as we entered the apartment. “Next time will be
your turn, Matt. Let’s have some juice and relax a bit before doing
Matt d plopped on the couch and dropped his backpack on the floor in
front of him. Sarah did not follow suit. Instead, she nimbly climbed on
top of the kitchen counter to get the red capes her mommy had made for
the Super Family. The minimal climbing available to her in her apartment
was not as difficult as her workouts each Friday morning in her gymnastics
class. She easily grabbed the red capes and yanked them to the floor,
pulling down several other items as well. She tied a cape around her neck
and danced around the room.
Matt momentarily snuggled next to me on the couch and then he and
I readied ourselves for Sarah’s pounce. She took a running leap toward us
yelling “Ready or not. Here comes Wondergirl.”
Matt groaned. “G-Ma, go on with your Super
Heroes story, please. Don’t stop even though Sarah is disturbing us A
LOT.” He threw back his head in disgust and irritation.
“Uggggghhhhhhhh, Sarahhhhhh. Quit it and listen.”
“Waaaa…Waaaaa…I’m Super Diaper Baby now. Waaaa…Waaaaa.” Sarah
collapsed on all fours to the floor, and pranced like a spider gracefully
dropping off its web. She tied the red cape diaper style around her bottom
and crawled over to the couch to continue to pester Matt. As she neared
us readying to light upon her
prey, I quickly threw up a roadblock.
“Sarah, much as I love Super Diaper Baby, I
remember a few details about one more Super Hero, Captain America. He’s a
better Super Hero than the little Super Diaper Baby we read about in
Matt’s new book. Do you want me to tell you about Captain America? You
know about Batman already. Remember, I bought you the little Batman
pajamas last summer.”
I hoped the kids wouldn’t be too belabored with all my
information. I love the Super Heroes and think playing with their related
toys is a fun thing for kids.
“I like the name, G-Ma,” Matt said. We live in America. We live in
North America. I made a map and mommy put it on the kitchen door with the
one Matt made last year.” Sarah’s chest puffed while Matt’s frown grew.
Sarah removed her Super Diaper Baby diaper and bounced onto the couch.
“G-Ma, just get on with the story. I want to hear about Captain America,
too.” Matt grudgingly made room for his rascally Wonder Sister. Both
super kids at last cozied on the couch to listen.
“Captain America was another powerful hero. He was also created by
two men – Joe Simon and Jack Kirby – one year after Wonder Woman was
created. These men wanted a hero to stand for all the things the United
States stood for. They needed a hero that could win over lots of
difficulties. And so, Captain America was created. What made him
different from all the other Super Heroes was that he crossed the Atlantic
Ocean to take the fight for freedom to our enemy in Germany.”
“I don’t understand, G-Ma, you told us you are German. Were you
there when our country had an enemy in Germany. I know where Germany is,
it’s in Europe.” Matt leaped off the couch and over to his world map
above Sarah’s and pointed to Germany.
I answered her utilizing my limited German.
“Meine liebchen, my mother is German and so I’m of German descent just
like you are Irish because your Daddy’s parents are Irish. I never lived
in Germany and when Germany was the enemy of the United States, I was a
tiny baby. Der fuhrer is the nickname of Adoph Hitler the person
responsible for our war with Germany. He was not a good man and Captain
America was given a Super-Soldier serum that turned him into the ultimate
soldier to fight against the evil Hitler.
“Captain America’s real name was Steve Rogers. He was America’s
super-patriot. He helped stat the World War II super-group, The
Invaders. He continues to be the inspiration to his countrymen that
he was created to be. There was a special poster of him in which he
honored our NYPD and FDNY heroes of September 11.”
“G-Ma, did you know six firefighters from our Firestation down the street died? I drew a picture of them for the
station to put up. Are there real Super Heroes, G-Ma? I
know Spider Man isn’t really real.”
Matt was suddenly very serious. He wore his ‘old man look’. He took
the loss of his special firemen hard and occasionally still talks about
them. Several weeks ago, he asked me to go down to the station to show me
where their names are painted on the front of the firetruck.”
“Mommy says Spidey and Wonder Woman are good for our ‘maginations
and are fun to play. Mommy says we can wear our Super capes anytime we
want to. Mommy says she likes the Super Heroes.”
“Who are you going to be Matt? Sarah shrilled as she tied the ‘used’
diaper, now cape again, around her neck and handed him his super
wardrobe. I’m Wooonnnnnderrrr Girl and I’m a Suuuuuuppppperrr Hero.”
Matt was quiet for a moment, looked up at me and
softly said “I’m going to be one of the Firemen or the Policemen. They are
our real heroes. They are always doing dangerous jobs to
rescue people and animals and save buildings or save us from the bad guys.
They are everyday heroes, G-Ma.”
His words weren’t a question. He wasn’t asking for confirmation. He was
making a statement of fact, letting me know he didn’t support to believe
in what he believed.
I was continually amazed and pleased by Matt’s
tremendous sensitivity and realism. He didn’t just have a kind and
caring heart, but was gifted. His Parents of Vigilance had stimulated his
synapses constantly, creating his thirst for knowledge, and passed that
same hunger on to his sister.
Sarah, a quick study and also having thousands of stimulated
synapses as well, untied her cape as she donned a toy Fire Chief hat and
handed one to Matt.
Matt, now we’ll play real heroes. She handed Matt a plastic
toy Fire Helmet.”
“Wow, is G-Ma ever proud of her super heroes, you little
firefighters. You know, there are super boys and girls, children like
you, who are good, kind and do their best just as you do. The same is
true for mommies and daddies, and grandmas and grandpas. Those caretakers
who are Vigilant at being good parents or grandparents and who talk to the
children with understanding and take the Right Action, will succeed in
teaching their children to be the best they can be and to help others. You
children and those who are not Complacent about their special purposes in
life are the new generation of super heroes.”
It was easy for me to decide which prop to wear to play with my two
super grandkids. So, I, too, donned a Fire Chief hat and tied a red cape
around my neck and joined in on the fun.
New York City
has been called by the rest of the country, a City of Heroes. The
extraordinary courage of ordinary people who came to the aid of others in
need, helped turn one of our darkest days into our finest hour. Our
real-world heroes, men and women who saved lives with no thought for their
own personal safety and without super powers, were armed only with their
Courage and Right Action. I believe it is healthy for children to play
Super Heroes as long as they know there are real heroes
among the people in their homes and cities. And as long as they know they
can be real heroes too by doing their best and helping
To Sophia 18: "Pigeon Paranoia"
- 2004, VigilanceVoice.com, All rights reserved - a ((HYYPE))