I don’t think my spit used to be a universal solvent. When I spilled a drink on myself at parties in college, my first thought was not saliva on a napkin.
Now, that stuff can get off anything.
We get superpowers when we have kids, and it’s not just the incredible sense of smell I had during my pregnancy. (“Are you eating a burger? Outside in your car? Can you not? It’s making me nauseated.”) We get the parent powers, and as for any superhero, with great power comes great responsibility.
Still, sometimes it can be fun.
I have the mom voice. I learned this week that I can make a room of squealing 7-year-old girls stop in their tracks, lie down, and quietly read, without a sound, for 15 minutes. I did this just by being what I call “stern,” and one of them called “really scary.”
I try not to misuse this power. I try to use it only for its true intended purpose of, for example, getting my daughter to stop walking when she’s about to step out in front of a car. But I will admit that occasionally I do find myself using it just to get her to open the door for our cat.
Mom Voice can be useful even with those who aren’t children. An adult friend of mine recently had a large medical event. In her first few weeks out of the rehab facility, she went to dinner at another friend’s house, who happens to be a mother. Being stir crazy from the weeks of enforced immobility, my friend pulled herself to her feet and said she’d help set the table.
This woman locked eyes with her, chuckled humorlessly, and said, “Um, yeah. No.”
The mom voice was strong with this one. My sometimes stubborn friend immediately sat down.
I want to learn this.
Parents can also get supersensitive hearing. I know a dad who can tell if a screaming child is his, and if the screams are happy or hurt, from about 50 yards away and in about 0.00008 seconds. This is an amazing skill, and one I envy. I always find myself gasping for air after racing up our three flights of stairs before I realized that those were screams of laughter.
The fabled eyes in the back of our heads come from our increased powers of observation. Before I had a kid, a few unexplained crumbs in the kitchen would have received a shrug and a paper towel. Now, they become part of a chain of clues that can lead me to say, “No, you cannot have chocolate, because you already got yourself a treat earlier.”
The wide-eyed awed look makes me feel like Sherlock Holmes’ mother.
The parent’s most important power is the ability to make everything better. You can’t heal everything, but when your kid has a disappointment or a scraped knee or a fever, the band-aids or kid’s ibuprofen are a distant second to the comfort that comes from your hug and kind words. Your very presence makes it better, and that’s more incredible than the Hulk.
There are no spider bites, no radioactivity, and we weren’t born on a different planet, but parents do have super powers. They don’t expire, and they aren’t transferable, so make the most of what you’ve been given, and get out there and save the world.
Oh, and p.s., don’t forget to call your personal superhero on Sunday, and thank her for being superhuman. Or at least a super human.