Lately, my four-year-old son Rafael has been quite taken with dressing up as a superhero. If you asked him who he was, he would probably say Captain America, but it’s more of a mashup of Spider Man, the Flash, and a few other characters, as well as a knock-off Captain America shield.
I was always more of a Superman fan myself as a kid, but that was probably because the Superman movies came out when I was about four. Nowadays the Marvel superheroes are all the rage.
The big difference, however, is that when I was four, I actually saw the Superman movie, but Rafael has not seen Captain America. I still have memories of sitting in a movie theater, watching Krypton get destroyed. Rafael, on the other hand, gets terrified by just about everything. He runs screaming out of the room if the Dinosaur Train episode about a hurricane is showing.
Rafael cannot wrap his head around the idea that a tv show or movie can be fun because it is a little scary. I’d love to introduce him to some of my other childhood favorites, like Star Wars, but right now I cannot even get him to watch something even mild. With his superhero obsession, I thought he would love the old 1980’s “Spiderman and Friends” show I found on Netflix, but he was traumatized after one episode and swore he would never watch it again.
I’m not sure how to get him past this fear of tv shows, but I have found other ways for him to be brave. Like his mail delivery mission this weekend.
Teaching my kids to be independent is important to me. As a kid, I had tons of freedom to roam the neighborhood and learn to think for myself, but somehow as a society we have become much more fearful. Crime rates are down, but people act like there are kidnappers lurking around every corner.
On Sunday morning, I had two letters to mail. It was a beautiful fall day, and I thought my son would enjoy coming with me. I often walk to the mailbox down the street with my kids and let them open the little door in the mailbox and stick the letter in.
Then, it occurred to me… this is something Rafael could do on his own.
There were no streets to cross, and he has been to this mailbox several times. He knows how to put the letters in. The biggest concern is that the mailbox is near the corner of a busy intersection, but this didn’t worry me.
My kids are excellent at stopping at intersections. When we walk around our home city of Cambridge, the kids ride their Razor scooters and will often zip ahead of us. And one lesson they have learned incredibly well is to stop at the intersections and wait until we arrive. No crossing the street without us. It sometimes freaks the drivers out, since they see the kids standing on the sidewalk right by the crosswalk. Cars will often stop and wait, but the kids just stand their for the 15-20 seconds until we catch up to them and tell them when it is okay to go.
Confident he could do this, I proposed the mission to Rafael. He was very excited. We chose a spot where I would stand at one end of the block that would allow me to see him the whole way. Then, superhero costume fully assembled, he ran off on his mission.
I watched him zip down the block. He went straight to the mailbox, and in the distance, I could see him reaching up to it and sticking in the letters. Then he ran straight back, very proud of having accomplished his mission.
I couldn’t see for sure that the letters really went in the mailbox, but I trust him. If not, I’ll know why the Cambridge tax collector comes knocking on my door.