As a kid, an atlas could hold me entranced for hours. The individually coloured lands and crazy contortions of coastlines mesmerised me. My boyhood fascination for maps was revived last week as I arrived for dinner at Simon’s grandparents’. Simon and his pop were surveying a school atlas. Because I am not so modest with my adventures, I turned the conversation to how I had flown to the other side of the world earlier in the afternoon. There were people and places that needed saving.

Simon got it and smiled. He is incredibly astute at five. His imagination and sense of wonder are immaculately formed and work without awareness of impossibilities. Unfortunately, the adult brains of good friends around him tune into my workwear with the Superman logo and create adult-brain issues like, “Why is he wearing his pyjama bottoms?!”

“I didn’t have time to change after saving people,” I retort and give my attention back to Simon.

Taking Flight

Two weeks earlier, a similar scenario played out. I flashed my Superman socks at my dear little friend, who reciprocated with a wise smile. His faith in my support role to the real Superman is disarming. He seems to look on at me in anticipation of witnessing me launching into flight and disappearing through his parent’s ceiling and roof. As much as it would be amazing to carry off such a stunt, I needed to keep my thoughts on dinner, which I had promised to prepare.

In being distracted by the meal prep, I missed that Simon had silently disappeared, only to re‑emerge in costume. His bedroom is the equivalent of a Clark Kent phone booth. “How would it be,” I asked the young Superman, “If you missed a day off school so we could fly around the world to save the day?”

His wide-eyed expression spoke of his need to obediently attend class while having an awareness of the critical role of helping people out. Such is the complication of finding the balance in the adult world of juggling obligations and responsibilities.

The bold colours of my imagination don’t always spark in the adult world that I participate in during my 37.5-hour work week. All those policies and procedures can mould us adults into fairly staid behaviours. The demands to have business cases approved and deadlines achieved and functional specs built sometimes crash over the space that might otherwise have been set aside for fun.

At least, that is the way it plays out for some people. My approach is different. My work has a quota of drudgery, yet I won’t let that compromise my fun. Most times. Sometimes the fun stuff has to wait until the other side of my 37.5 hours to be released on the wonderful people around who love me.

Simon is one of those people. He is a little younger than my 6-year-old daughter. He is a gentle reminder of the delight in children that I might otherwise have been sharing with my precious earthly angels. I can test-drive some of my stories and make-believe on Simon before landing them on my girls when they are back in my care.

Glorious Dreams

Simon was a bit tentative when I offered to draw a picture. His scrapbook is very precious and, until now, he had reserved it for his exclusive use. He was chuffed by the linked chains I sketched. Then, the field of flowers amused him. After that, he started placing orders for drawings. I went to work on an octopus while his imagination worked at eight times the normal speed to work out what the octopus was holding onto. Naturally, an ice cream cone was requested. If you have never seen an octopus eating ice cream, then I suspect that you are spending too much time at work.

Things don’t go wrong in my make-believe. An octopus can have thirty-seven flavours of ice cream in his waffle cone. Simon can be a pilot and his helicopter can be powered by a Hills Hoist. Helicopters keep him out of reach of dinosaurs that can be fended off with water balloons.

I had such a wonderful night being a superhero. On the other side of my 9-to-5 world is a place where superheroes are those people who make kids laugh. My superheroes visit old people in homes, hold the door open; they call in help and rely on sidekicks. My version of being a superhero involves holding my precious girls so tightly in the comfort of a hug when things are bent for them, yet not so tightly that they cannot slip away to explore the complexity of growing up.

Right now, in the quiet of my man cave, my Superman strides are back to being pyjamas. As much as I will that they might fly me to see my daughters, I am content that I have some stories to tell. I have pictures to share.

It is upsetting at times to have to save up stuff until my next time with them. I do, however, find comfort in the thought that they might be dreaming of an over-indulged octopus, gorging on a vast variety of ice cream flavours.


Photo by Ketut Subiyanto.

About the Author: Greg McInerney

Greg is the father of two daughters.

Leave A Comment