We are proud to bring you this “My Dad, My Hero” memory through our partnership with Dove Men+Care. Enjoy.
My dad doesn’t remember his superhero moment.
When I was 9, he once swooped in and saved me from a gang of bullies that had taken my bike and were riding it around me, taunting me.
As a boy who loved his comic books, it was a thrilling scene. Dad racing in like The Flash, striking fear into their hearts like Batman, then striding back, my bike in hand, as if he were Thor. It is an indelible memory.
So when I recalled the story over dinner at a large family gathering, I was puzzled by his reaction. Head tilted, half-smiling, nodding along, he listened to the tale but didn’t join in. Later he told me he only had a vague recollection of it because that wasn’t an important moment for him.
Instead, his treasured memories were close to mundane. Playing catch in the backyard. Visiting my grandparents’ cottage. Or just family dinners. For him, being a father wasn’t about making a flashy show of heroics, but simply caring for your child.
“You don’t become a father to be a superhero,” he said, “You do it because you love your kid.”
At the time I didn’t exactly follow. It would be years later, once I had a son of my own, that I caught on.
Having a child is a life-changing event. Before Liam came along, were you to measure how I grew as a person, it would have been by mere inches every year. But upon his arrival, that expanded into yards, even miles per day. Why? Because my whole perspective changed.
The difference is you make the realization that your life is no longer your own. Your perspective changes. You truly do put someone else before you. And that is the real essence of a superhero.
Superhero movies are fun, but they don’t provide a realistic portrayal of masculinity. Dads don’t need a fancy suit of armor, or weaponry, or even a ridiculously chiseled physique to be powerful. What makes a father heroic, powerful, and, yes, masculine, is their ability to put others ahead of themselves.
A superhero doesn’t do what they do because it makes them feel awesome, they save lives and stop bad things from happening because they care about others more than they do about themselves. Somewhere along the course of their lifetime, they had a life-altering event, and it changed their perspective.
Superpowers don’t make the hero, a sense of caring does.
It’s not important to them how many bad things they may have stopped, but that they’re there for us if we need them again.
That’s the comic-book language version of what my father was trying to tell me. Now that I have Liam, I understand this. I love him more every day, and I’m surprised that this is even possible.
And that sense of caring gives me strength. Real strength. I could be sick, going on no sleep for days, commitments to work falling by the wayside, and yet I will still be able to stop everything in order to make him a meal if he’s hungry.
This is strength I never had before I became a father.
So while my own dad denies he’s a superhero, I still think he is. While I can’t say the same for myself, my comic book obsession remains, so my son and I at least dress the part. Perhaps you’ll see us around, wearing shirts with matching Bat-symbols, or carrying shields with stars on them.
But the real strength of fatherhood, and of superheroes for that matter, comes from caring. Understanding this has helped me understand superheroes better, my father better, and maybe even to a better understanding of myself.
The folks at Dove Men+Care get it. They understand modern masculinity. They know the vast majority of men would tell you that it’s important to be a caring father. It’s why City Dads Group partners with them over and over again. Their new “My Dad, My Hero” #RealStrength ad campaign is just the latest evidence of this. See for yourself: