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Monday, March 10, 2008

Parenting Superpowers

When I used to think about being a father, and think hard about the dangers my children would have to face, I would have imaginary battles with the forces of evil: Superdad strikes down another drunken hockey-dad! Superdad leaps into the air to catch child falling from tree! Superdad bakes amazing pie!


In 2006, long before Erin was born, Emily and I were driving home on the 101 south out of San Francisco. It was late, and dark. I was driving in the number 2 (which is poo) lane, 2nd from the left, and we were just passing Daly City when I saw (No, I couldn't be seeing that; that must be a trick of the curving of the road) headlights in the left lane up ahead.

(It must be headlights from the northbound side of the freeway.)
There was a car driving next to me in the left lane, a little ahead; going just a little bit faster than I was and I had been in his blind spot for a couple of seconds as I gently slowed to get out of it.
(Headlights growing brighter; no confusion now, it's on our side of the freeway.)
I actually experienced time slowing down and freezing as the following mental sequence happened:
  1. I truly came to believe that there was a car going north in the southband fast lane.
  2. I realized that I was still in the blindspot of the car next to me.
  3. I knew I was going to be dangerously cut off, possibly with contact, possibly violently, if I stayed where I was.
  4. I knew I was possibly going to cut off, with contact, perhaps violently, any car in the lane to my right if I switched lanes
  5. I knew I was going to be rear-ended if I suddenly hit my brakes.

Time remained frozen and I was able, preturnaturally quickly, to look over my right shoulder and reassure myself that there was no car there to be cut off, turn my signal on anyway; and dart into the next lane over...

...just before the car in the fast lane noticed the oncoming vehicle and swerved into the space I had just vacated.


It was 2001, and Emily and I had just returned from IKEA with a new bed frame. It was one of those simple looking, beech-laminate frames with the wooden apron running all around so that the mattress was held in the frame rather than just sitting on it.


It was about one month ago and I was in bed, propped up on a pillow as I watched Emily play with Erin toward the foot of the bed. Erin had become quite the little crawler, and she was constantly in motion. She started crawling toward me, over my slightly-elevated knees, and then off to my right side where the comforter was bunched up in a down ridge. She rolled over onto her back and wiggled on the comforter a little.

And then launched her self from a supine position off the edge of the bed.

Time froze. I was able to hurl myself forward from my pillowy resting place just in time to reach out and snag her leg as her head and shoulders disappeared over the edge. Upon contact her body jacknifed like she had reached the end of a bungee cord.

Her trajectory had been toward the carpeted floor; suddenly her head and shoulders swung back and


It was one of the loudest sounds my heart had ever heard. Erin's head had swung at the laminated particle-board apron on our IKEA bed like McGwire swinging at number 62.


Erin was, of course, fine. I was traumatized forever.

And I've learned, as so many before me who have discovered they have super-powers: Our great powers can be used for good or for evil, and it doesn't always have anything to do with our intentions. We don't automatically become heroes when we become parents. Being a hero requires work, focus, intention, and I think most of all: luck.

I'm going to try to use my powers for good. And maybe bake a pie.


M, Ms. R, Mom, Auntie M, Marey said...

Just came over from Dad Gone Mad....had to comment because I like totally live in the Bay Area...and drive 101 all the time...although I have never encountered anyone driving at me and hopefully never will. I do contend w/Elastigal though in the super power department.

Backpacking Dad said...

Thanks for stopping by and also for leaving a note. I love DGM and anyone who reads his blog must be awesome.

Elastigal; could have used that power instead of my superspeed.

for a different kind of girl said...

Since becoming a parent, I've developed the skill of time travel - I realize this may be the wrong name for it, for I am merely married to a science fiction fan and am not fully engulfed by it, but go with me here, won't you?!

One morning, my husband was walking down the stairs on our split level house, holding both the banister and our two month old son. My heart pounded with love for the both of them, when I suddenly noticed my husband's foot slip slightly, then go out from under him completly. Before my newborn went airborne, I was from one cormer of the living room, up a set of stairs and at the landing to pluck him from the air before he clattered down the stairs, wrapped in his blanket.

Even with the full heart of love, it took me about three minutes to finally ask my husband if he was OK.

These adorable creatures will make you jump all kinds of hoops!

Backpacking Dad said...

That sounds a lot like my superpower. I'm not sure if it should be called time travel, or Time Molass-izing: slowing time to an ooze.

Up a landing! I think youre power is stronger than mine.

Leanne said...

I've done the 'catch the baby by the ankle' thing too, more than once actually.

Although she was a wee bit older at the time and happily hung by her leg off the side of the bed giggling her head off, while I'm stretched across the full length of the bed, quickly realising my bingo wings are not in fact covering overdeveloped muscular arms and all the while trying to tell my heart to get out of my throat.

Great times.