Think About This

When my son Gabe was a little boy, his heroes were those characters who were protectors.  As a five-year-old, his favorite book was “St. George and the Dragon.” He loved Superheroes- Batman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers.   He had a keen sense of justice, a deeply kind heart, and an intensity of thought that often left him unable to fall asleep once tucked into bed.

To help my son fall asleep at night, I developed Think-abouts.  Each night after a story, a prayer and a song, I would snuggle next to him, and set the stage for something to think about as he drifted off to sleep.  They usually began in a similar way:

“Gabriel, MacGyver and Pooh Bear are on a mission to save a baby seal who is stuck on an ice floe in the cold Arctic waters.”

Okay, I know what you are thinking. “Seriously?  Gabriel, MacGyver and Pooh Bear?”

Well, the Think-about had to be adventurous enough to capture his attention, but not so scary it would frighten him.  It had to contain characters that he loved and admired. And it needed to give him the opportunity to make himself the character he imagined himself to be- altruistic, protective, heroic.  He would lie in bed, playing out the adventure in his head until he fell into slumber.  By concentrating on the Think-about, he’d forget the things of the real world that threatened to bar him from the Land of Nod.  His tense muscles would relax, his breaths fall into a slow, even rhythm, and his dreams would be kick started by his twilight imaginings.

As Gabe grew up, Think-abouts were replaced by earphones and music, his naivety giving way to snarky sarcasm.  However, he never lost his desire to champion for those who needed a defender.  As a teenager, he was loyal to a fault, sometimes putting himself in peril in misguided attempts to defend friends before making sure he had his facts straight, but as he matured, he learned to harness his reactions and tame them into responses.

Over the years, Gabe’s idealism has been tempered by realism, but he is much the same as that little boy who dreamed gabe oct 2013about saving baby seals from the perils of the world.  He champions for those who are weak.  He stands up for what he thinks is right.  He rolls up his sleeves and works hard to make the world just a little better than what it was before he was born.

Now, I’m not saying that in the days of think-abouts, I anticipated how my son’s life would unfold.  But I do know that we help influence our children by the heroes and role models we introduce to their imaginations.  We can help them align themselves with those who wear white hats, the caped crusaders, the protectors of the weak, the defenders of the small.

My son’s stuffed bear sits in a trunk in our attic, where it will stay until another little boy needs him. And Gabe will most likely never create a rocket out of chewing gum and paper clips, or save the world from a nuclear explosion.  But he is living a life that would make MacGyver and Winnie-the-Pooh…and his mother… proud.  He is becoming his own kind of super hero.

Think about that.

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