SUPERMOM

He looked at me in earnest and asked, “Would you rather be Batman or Superman?

The other night my son asked me if I knew how to play a game called “Would You Rather.” The question instantly transported me back to a former life—books on the floor, smoke in the air, Portishead on repeat. Would you rather sleep with Sartre or marry Simone de Beauvoir? Would you rather be in a threesome with Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, or Foucault? It was freshman year of college. Sex and existentialism were de rigeur.

But my son the kindergartener had different ideas.

He looked at me in earnest and asked, “Would you rather be Batman or Superman? Would you rather fly a car or drive a boat? Would you rather use the Force or have the power of invisibility?”

Parenting is easy! You just need superpowers.

I adjusted my expectations and played along. I even embraced the mixed metaphors. It’s what good mothers do.

After a few rounds, it was time for bed. We drifted off to sleep with visions of superheroes, and in the morning, we got on our bikes and put the game into action. We flew down the alley, fearless and determined, fighting the bad guys with lightsabers and lasers. When the bad guys doubled down, we fought back even harder. We displayed our skills—intelligence, strength, agility, zeal. Dispatching evil was our destiny.

We stopped at a red light. I heard my son’s excited breathing behind me. I was also on a high, full of ecstatic, self-congratulatory thoughts. Parenting is easy! You just need superpowers. When a car pulled up beside me, I looked right into the window. I wanted to share what I knew with the world.

I didn’t expect to recognize the driver, and I definitely didn’t expect him to be my ex-boyfriend, the much older guy I dated for a minute between college and grad school. He hadn’t changed a bit. Same wavy hair. Same wobbly cheeks. Same nervously expectant expression.

I considered saying something to him but decided against it. It was much more interesting to peek at him through the window, like looking inside the tank of a strange but harmless fish. So I just kept staring. I may even have gawked. And it was fine, because he didn’t even notice.

And why should he? After all, I was just another woman riding a bike with a child in tow. And herein lies my true superpower. Because while I may be a superhero at home, in the real world, the one ruled by middle-aged men in Mercedes, I am invisible.

The light turned green. I looked back at my son and saw the galaxy through his eyes.

“Ready, Luke Skywalker?” I called.

“Ready, Obi-Wan!”

While I may be a superhero at home, in the real world, the one ruled by middle-aged men in Mercedes, I am invisible.

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