Superheroes and Superpowers

Spider-Man: Far From Home, X-Men: Dark Phoenix and Avengers: Endgame have all come out recently with much fanfare. Superheroes with superpowers rule the box office. We as a culture are mesmerized and captured by the supernatural, a force beyond the laws of nature. There are remnants of these other worlds everywhere, from video games, books, comics to merchandise and costumes. Which is why it shouldn’t have been surprising to me that when I was out with my friend a few months ago, she starting talking about her son’s “superpower”. She described her son’s ability to constantly be in motion, with the endurance of a marathon runner and the abundance of energy like the energizer bunny. She claimed these abilities as his “superpowers”. I fell in love with this description of her child!

While we exalt fictional superheroes for abilities that are sometimes seen as ordinary, as a culture, when it comes to our little ones especially, we are quick to point out their weaknesses, complain about said weaknesses with frustration and judge one another on these perceived weaknesses. Instead, my friend chose to see her son’s abilities as not only positive, but powerful. How remarkable is that! This exercise of finding the superpower(s) within our children forced me to see the supernatural within my little ones and celebrate what makes them unique.

And I didn’t have to think long to come up with a list. My son’s superpowers are his passion, creativity and ability to focus. My daughter’s superpowers are her self-confidence, wittiness and remarkable maturity and clarity. And let’s not stop there. Taking this one step further, I started thinking of my own superpowers as well. To see one’s own strengths as superpowers not only provides a confidence boost (yes to increased self-confidence!), but also is deeply empowering. I can now use my superpowers of deep empathy and sensitivity, passion and community service simultaneously as body armor and ammunition.

Perhaps what drives the popularity of superhero films is our deep desire to possess these superpowers within ourselves, and what my friend reminded me is that we, especially our children, most certainly do.

"Toot-er"

Last night, as I looked across the dining table, both kids doubled over in fits of laughter, I couldn’t help but relish the moment. Normally I would have been less than enthused that we were wasting time. We were behind schedule; dinner was later which would mean that baths would be delayed with bedtime pushed deeper into the night. But the laughter was that infectious one, the kind that overtakes your whole body, and one that, despite your mind trying to take over, just brings the biggest smile to your face. We laughed and rejoiced. And I couldn’t help but join them.

What was so funny you may ask? I told the kids how finally I was going to meet the first-grade student that I had been tutoring for the past year in his classroom. I was excited to put a face with a name and voice that I had talked to every Friday morning for months now. I told them how we were hosting a year-end celebration with his class and that I was bringing snacks. Then I said, “you know, because I’m his tutor.” The kids lost it then. What they heard was that I was a “toot-er”. Or as my son explained, one who “toots”.

As I sat there watching them in their happiness, laughing along with them, and recounting it later with them while putting them to bed, I couldn’t help but think that this is what life is about. Life doesn’t get much better than this. I was thankful that I was present enough to not only accept this moment for what it was, but also, to enjoy it with my two favorite little humans.

A Rat Race That Cannot Be Won

“I’m ready to lean OUT.”

Sarah Buckley Friedberg

A Facebook rant by a Needham, MA mother of three ends with this: “I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to lean OUT.” Since writing her viral post, Sarah Buckley Friedberg garnered over 79,000 likes, 18,000 comments and 72,000 shares. She certainly has hit a cord, mostly among similarly situated, privileged (I’d argue, predominantly white) women and mothers.

What is it about her post that resonates with so many people? I’m exhausted reading the post, let alone being a working mother of two trying to achieve all that she talks about. Society’s expectation that we must be put together, skinny and fit, well-rested, well-adjusted, well-groomed, ambitious, financially contributing members of our families coupled with raising kids who are well-fed, well-balanced and well-rounded (be proficient in at least one sport, instrument and other activity), curious, high-achieving explorers is simply impossible and unfair. It is an unspoken truth that the same is not, and will never be, expected of the opposite sex.

I love this part of Ms. Buckley’s post:

"Recycle. Be Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the birthday planner, the poop doula (seriously when will this end), the finder of lost things, the moderator of fights. Be fun. Be firm. Read books. Have dance parties."

I’ve written a lot about this but my solution to these ridiculous, untenable societal expectations is to ignore them as much as possible. Of course, I’m susceptible to them as much as the next woman is but the more we try to achieve these unrealistic, soul-crushing, goals, the more will be expected of us. It’s a rat race that cannot be won.

One of the reasons I started Messy Bliss a few years ago was to encourage us to question these notions, to embrace the messy imperfections and to find joy and happiness in all of it. Let’s cultivate a counterculture of being who we are, strong women who strengthen, support and promote one another and delight in and celebrate each other’s messiness unapologetically. The more that we can do that, the less these expectations will matter to us all and the less pressure we will all feel. So let’s do more of the leaning out and just being instead.

Turning 40

I lay in bed on the last day of my 30s suffering from insomnia. I listened to my family as they slept. I walked around our apartment in Rome. The minutes crept on and there was no denying it anymore that I was going to be 40 come the new day. This day had arrived a lot sooner than I expected. I had built up this day in my head for a while now, mostly looking at this age with dread and lamenting. In my head, my thoughts went like this, “I can’t believe you are so old,” “How did 40 arrive this quickly?”. “Wait, I haven’t reached my goal weight yet,” “This is not where I thought I’d be in my career,” and so on and so forth. You get the point. I was approaching 40 with feelings of mourning (mostly of my youth), foreboding and unease.

As the sun started to rise, my eyes slowly drifted asleep, I realized that I had been approaching this day wrong. I should have listened to my husband who always seems to be so sensible and mature given these situations. I alone define myself. I alone have the power to make of the moment and feel of the moment what I want. While my age and the lapse of time are simply out of my control, what I think about it, what I feel about it, are solely within my wheelhouse.

So as I woke up, I was greeted with the delightful songs of my kids singing me happy birthday, kisses from my husband, messages from my parents and brother and the sun shining into our beautiful apartment. I was blessed and felt beyond grateful. As I read the beautiful cards my family wrote and sat watching dear friends from around the world sharing beautiful moments of my life, I was reminded of all that I had experienced, all that I had lived, and all that I am.

The expectations I had had for this day slowly released their grasp on me and instead, feelings of acceptance and love embraced me. It turns out that 40 is not that bad afterall. And there’s some relief in knowing that.