3 Feb
2016
Posted in: parenting
By    1 Comment

Meaning Behind Childhood Heroes

I was recently verbally slapped for my 8-year-old’s choice of heroes. They are, for the most part, athletes, and another adult expected better from me as the parent. I was told it should bother me he didn’t name a scientist or teacher or former president. It doesn’t. As he matures, his list will change and those larger-than-life people he sees on TV and in the news will no longer dominate his thoughts, but stay firmly planted in memories of his childhood.

Our son was asked who he looked up to and admired. He answered: J.R.R. Tolkien, soldiers, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, and Larry Nance Jr., a rookie basketball player with the LA Lakers (former Wyoming Cowboy). Half of his list is comprised of athletes. No one bothered to ask him why he admired any of those people. Judgment was passed as soon as sports figures were named.

Mile High Stadium - Denver Broncos

I enjoy hearing stories from the time my children spend with other people. When I was asked if I knew who C admired, I had a pretty good idea what he said. Those four names encompass everything he EVER talks about. I was not prepared for the negativity surrounding his admiration of athletes. I was on the receiving end of a short lecture on how children should be exposed to great individuals to give them solid role models. I left the conversation with a simple “thanks for your opinion and maybe next time you should ask why someone is admired.”

It’s not often I feel my parenting skills are called into question by others. I’ve been doing this long enough that others’ ideas of what I’m doing doesn’t phase me (most of the time). I’m much harder on my parenting skills than outsiders could ever be. But this conversation left me seething and spending copious amounts of time coming up with witty comebacks.

I’m a former sports reporter. Our children’s childhoods are riddled with sporting events both live and on TV. They were bound to be fans or at least, tolerate sports. I’m also an advocate for literacy, specifically early childhood. Books play a huge part of my life and thus those around me have also been exposed to a great many stories from various authors. Our families have a proud tradition of military service. There are photos displayed in our home of our own serving, and we talk about the military. His heroes are rooted in his home life.

Writing a book about World War II

I asked C why he chose those specific people as personal heroes. Tolkien spurs his imagination. He likes thinking about good vs. evil and how to overcome. Really the same applies to soldiers. He wants to beat “bad guys” and save people in trouble.

Where to begin with the athletes. C wants to play football like Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Von Miller. He wants to be strong and relentless on that field. The same goes for Larry Nance Jr. C would love to fly over defenders on the way to a dunk, win championships and be drafted to the NBA, all while attending the University of Wyoming. Those are all answers I’d expect from a third grader. He wants to physically be like those athletes and have crowds cheer his name. But he didn’t mention desiring fancy cars, bling, big houses or fat paychecks. The words “famous” and “well-known” were never uttered.

Denver Bronco Kapri Bibbs signing autographs

Digging deeper into why he looks up to the Broncos and Nance, and not Lebron James or the Carolina Panthers, I found something much simpler. His heroes have all been kind to him. They’re real people who he’s actually shared space with, not simply famous people on TV. He’s patiently waited for hours at Broncos games to see his favorite players and attempt to secure autographs. He’s been rewarded by several Broncos players who had a kind word and were happy to sign their name for one of many orange and blue clad fans. They made him feel special. His favorite story is of Kapri Bibbs, currently on the Broncos practice squad, from a preseason game this year. Bibbs stopped and took time to ask C his name, where he was from, if he played football and sign an autograph. He was kind.

Nance has proven his kindness several times to our children. C is possibly Nance’s biggest fan, slightly bordering on stalking. We’ve never watched the NBA much, but find ourselves following the Lakers compulsively. An injury currently has Nance sidelined, and C wondering if he should send a get well card like he did during Nance’s college career. Nevermind that we’ve already written Nance this year, which goes back to the stalking thing. We have to tell C to dial his enthusiasm back a tad. He’s an enthusiastic fan because Nance was kind. That kindness has earned utter devotion from one small fan.

There are far worse people to admire than those who give you an idea of justice, right vs. wrong, and kindness. If what he’s learned from his heroes is to be kind, I have no complaints.

 

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1 Comment

  • Thank you for sharing the story on who C and who he admires! Good job, he truly has picked people who are deserving!