Heroes and Villains…how do our kids tell the difference?
As I was once again watching some of the Star Wars movies with my little kids for probably the 100th time, my son asked me “so are the storm troopers good or bad?” to which I replied “well, they’re good in the fifth movie but not the sixth”. With a worried look on his face, he then followed up with “but in ‘Star Wars, the Clone Wars’, they are friends with Anakin and they fight the bad guys, right”. Struggling a little, I then tried to explain”well, yes but Anakin becomes bad in the fifth movie too”. “But he can’t be bad because he’s a good guy!” replied my 7 year old.
Do you find yourself having these types of conversations with your kids about their “heroes”? We talk a lot about the “good guys” vs. the “bad guy” and my kids try hard to make sure they’re rooting for the “good guy”. The problem is, that’s not always a clear distinction these days. We cheer for the Michael Phelps of the world that win Olympic medals and achieve great things only to have them arrested for drug abuse or indicted on counts of rape. ¬†We cheer wildly for Steve McNair only to find that he was cheating on his wife…and his girlfriend…at the same time!
How do we explain to our kids the distinction between the “hero” vs. the “villain” when we don’t often know ourselves? Perhaps the solution is to not worship the person, but the act. Perhaps it is no longer the hero that should be important but the act of heroism itself that should draw our accolades. Acts of sacrifice, kindness and true heroic struggle happen around us daily. We need to help our kids stop searching for the hero and start bringing attention to the true heroism in their lives. The teacher who despite the daily struggle with cancer, chooses to cheerfully come to school every day to help her students learn and grow. The policeman who leaves his family every night not knowing whether he’ll be back to see them the next morning just to make sure the rest of us can sleep a little safer. The parent who works long hours at thankless jobs, struggling with difficult people, just to make sure his kids can be fed and clothed.
As our kids watch our daily recognition of these silent and too often unrecognized acts of heroism throughout our day, perhaps they, too, will be able to understand that it is not the hero that is important, but the daily striving to be the hero that counts. One of my kids favorite songs is “If Today was Your Last Day” by Nickelback. As the title suggests, it reminds us that we don’t always get that second chance to do what we know we should. We “should do whatever it takes” to “shoot for the stars” because “whats worth the price is always worth the fight”. If our kids can learn that it’s never too late to do the right thing and that we shouldn’t wait until the last minute to make that choice, we may yet be able to repopulate the world with true heroes owrthy of a lifetime of accolades.