Faster than a Speeding Bullet

Faster than a Speeding Bullet

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms

Faster than a Speeding Bullet

Trust yourself, you know more than you think you do.

Benjamin Spock

I was walking down our street the other day when I saw a little boy dressed in Superman pajamas toddling to the curb with his grandmother. The cape attached to his shoulders flapped in the wind like a cheap sheet. But he didn’t care. With official Superman clothes hanging—and I do mean hanging—from his body, I knew the boy believed, without hesitation, that he could bend steel.

My two oldest boys, Ford, six, and Owen, four, spent a full year in Superman pajamas. I had to buy several sets just to keep up with the laundry. On Halloween, I begged them to pick different costumes. “Halloween is about pretending to be something you’re not,” I had said. “You’re Superman every day; why not give Bert and Ernie a try?” It never worked. Ford was so convinced of his Superman-like traits, he styled his hair with one curl of bangs hanging in the front.

Today, Ford and Owen are what we call “closet” Superman lovers. They’d rather be caught watching Blue’s Clues than have a neighbor see them running down the driveway in their dress-up pajamas. But that doesn’t mean they don’t still covet Superman underwear. They’re just a little more discreet. (Back in the day, Ford used to wear his red underwear on the outside of his pants, just to get a more genuine Superman effect. And I took him to the grocery store like that.)

A few years ago, when I washed Superman capes every single night, I thought the phase would never end. My ultimate fear was that Ford and Owen would one day wear blue tights and a red cape to high school. I began to worry that the alter-ego thing was messing with their heads. My husband and I set rules about how much time they could spend as Superman . . . until I gave that idea more thought. (Imagine a thirty-year-old sitting in his office, legs covered in shiny blue tights and propped on the desk, telling his secretary, “Jane, hold my calls; I’ve got ten more minutes as Superman.”)

Just when I believed that we’d have to change Owen’s name to Clark and Ford’s to Kal-El (Superman’s Kryptonian name)—which was, coincidentally, the same time that the boys’ pants became too short and their knees grew knobby—I brought home Superman toothbrushes, and Ford and Owen told me they wanted Batman.

Excuse me?

And just like that, a piece of their childhood was gone.

I folded Ford’s and Owen’s old Superman shirts and tucked them away in their new baby brother’s drawer. The familiar yellow emblems on the front were cracked and faded. There were holes in the armpits. I sat down on the floor and laughed. I could still so plainly see Ford and Owen running through the front yard, capes horizontal with the ground, on their way to save the day, or the dog, whichever. I cried holding one of the soft cotton shirts to my chest. When my husband came into the room, he said, “My gosh, you’ll be a mess when they go off to college some day.”

Everyone said this would happen. Old ladies at the mall used to hang over the stroller and tell me, “They grow up so fast, just you wait!” My mom said, “Before you know it, they’ll be all grown up.” Ford and Owen aren’t there yet, but for the first time I’m beginning to see what everyone tried to tell me: time goes by faster than . . . well, faster than a speeding bullet. It seemed like just yesterday that I lived with two little Supermen. Eventually, today will seem like yesterday, too.

After our third son was born this January, the doctor said to me, “Well, I guess you know what to do with this one.” And I do: I’ll start him on Superman early, I’ll take more pictures, I’ll worry less, and I’ll enjoy more. Because I know one day—far too soon—I’ll bring home a Superman toothbrush, and it will be the wrong one.

Sarah Smiley

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