Children without heroes perplex Dad

Fifteen years ago, I wrote a column for the Abilene Reporter-News – a newspaper for which I still worked remotely as online content editor even though my family and I had moved from Abilene, TX to Little Rock, AR. (My blogging buddy Deana Nall used to write a wonderful, somewhat-similar column for her hometown newspaper, The Baytown Sun.) I thought I’d re-post a few of my entries, as she has occasionally done with some of hers. My column was called “Parenting on Purpose.” This was the fourth installment.

(originally published September 6, 2002)

Dear Readers,

I know it shouldn’t be the parenting columnist asking for advice in the column, but I can’t help it.

I’m completely distraught. My children have no heroes. At least, none that they’re willing to tell me about.

I asked Laura, 6, who her heroes were — hoping, expecting to hear “The Little Mermaid” or even “Barbie,” but she just shrugged, “I dunno.”

I asked Matthew, 9, and his eyes just twinkled; a smile quivered at the corner of his mouth and he said, “Ed from ‘Ed, Edd and Eddy’ ” — a carton on Nickelodeon that he knows I don’t particularly like because all of the characters are doofuses.

When I was a kid, I had heroes. I made do with “Batman” until “The Green Hornet” came along — he was much cooler — and I discovered “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” in its last season. Napoleon Solo was okay, but Ilya Kuryakin had the patent on cool. The guy with pointed ears on “Star Trek” could neck-pinch them all to oblivion, though.

I still have heroes, though my definitions of “cool” and “hero” have changed over the years. (Matured, I like to think.)

Now I have heroes like Richard and Linda, folks with ordinary jobs who pretty much put their two kids throug hcollege at ACU, and — at the same time — a student from Africa who had lived with them throughout his high school years.

I have heroes like Bob and Kathy, who — with their natural children pretty much grown — are foster parents for babies in transition for adoption. They fell in love with two special needs children and adopted them, rearing them to ages 9 and 14 now, I think.

I have heroes like Robert and Michelle, whose son Riley suffered a cerebral hemorrhage at two weeks of age. Now 3, he’s learning at Easter Seals to communicate the only way he can — with American Sign Language. Did I mention he has two older sisters and a younger brother?

I have heroes like Angela, a single parent who for years desperately waited for a kidney transplant while rearing her three kids — now teenagers — from her wheelchair. She couldn’t even make herself pray for a transplant, because she was afraid the price would be some other children’s parent. Her friends prayed for her. But the transplant never happened, and she passed from this life last spring.

So I have some ordinary heroes, too: people who check that little box on their drivers’ licences to donate their organs.

You can understand why I’m distraught, can’t you. I’ve always had heroes. I thought every kid had heroes, needed heroes — those brave, super-powered unconquerables whose secret identities you would never, ever share. Not with your friends, not even with your best friends, especially not with your … parents.

Oh. Yeah.

That’s right. If you leaked their secret identities, they’d lose their super powers … their abilities to do mighty deeds … because they’d never have time off from being heroes. Come to think of it, my kids know all of the heroes I’ve described.

Never mind, dear readers.

Forget I asked.

Keith Brenton is the father of Matthew, 9, and Laura, 6. He and his wife, Angi, are adoptive parents. As content/media editor, he helps maintain Reporter-News Online and works at home. You can reach him by e-mail at [no longer active], but he admits he doesn’t have all the answers.

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