The Life of a Super Dad Can Be Tough
Parenting is tough. Especially when you’re living the life of a super dad and your baby might burst into flames.
Admittedly, this is not a challenge that most of us have. The Parr family—the superpowered clan from Pixar’s Incredibles movies—has its own special set of difficulties. Sure, lots of kids never seem to stop moving. But few can break the sound barrier, like young Dash Parr can. Many an adolescent girl would love to disappear when her father embarrasses her—but Violet can actually up and do it.
And then there’s Jack-Jack, the newest member of the Parr family. He, like many a baby, can be pretty peevish. But when Jack-Jack gets cranky, he doesn’t just cry: He’s liable to destroy a city block or two.
The Challenges for a Real Super Family
And in 2018’s Incredibles 2, Bob and Helen Parr have a few more challenges to cope with. Helen wants to be a working mom and Bob has to learn how to live the life of a super dad.
For years, Helen—a.k.a. Elastigirl—stretched herself to the limits for her family. After superheroes were outlawed and while Bob (once known as the super-strong Mr. Incredible) worked as an insurance adjuster, Helen managed the family’s home life and made it look reasonably effortless. But now she’s being asked to be a superhero again—for the good of all superheroes. If all goes well, her own kids can openly use their powers and her husband, Bob, can go back to being Mr. Incredible. However, for now, it means rejoining the work force and leaving the kids in charge of her hulking hubby. Bob has to learn that super dads serve.
“I’ll watch the kids, no problem,” Bob tells her. “Easy.”
‘Course, as every mom knows, there’s nothing easy about being a parent. That’s why, ideally, it takes two.
The Life of a Super Dad Requires Perseverance
Bob struggles when Helen’s away. And even though Mom gets to (literally) flex her abilities in Incredibles 2, Dad’s the real hero here. Forget supervillains: He’s fighting Dash’s math homework instead. Instead of rescuing boatloads of innocents, he’s trying to rescue Violet’s love life (and failing miserably at it). And who knew that a kid who can barely walk could be such a problem? Each decision Bob makes seems like the wrong one. The life of a super dad is tougher than Bob thought. Every tactic he tries blows up in his face.
But then he tries again. And maybe that’s the real secret of parenting: In the face of setbacks and failures and—let’s be honest—sometimes ungrateful kids, we keep trying. We get up the next day and give it another go.
My Introduction to the Life of a Super Dad
My wife and I both work outside the home, and for the first several years of our marriage, I had assumed that Wendy and I shared our household duties pretty equally. That assumption was rudely crushed when Wendy came down with a horrific case of the stomach flu several years ago, when our kids were still pretty young.
Wendy was in bed for three days. It felt like three years. Dishes stacked up. The kids’ meals went from nutritious balanced meals to potato chips, Oreos and whatever they could lick off the floor. I realized that I had no idea how to work the washing machine. Like Bob Parr, I was deeply humbled. Incredible? Hardly. I learned that super dads serve.
When Wendy staggered into the kitchen, smiled and asked “what’s for breakfast?”, it felt as though I’d sailed through a hurricane and into calmer, sunny seas. Both the kids and the dog miraculously survived, and we all celebrated that morning with bowls of slightly-stale Cheerios and what little milk we still had in the house.
Parenting is a Heroic Act
Up ‘til that point, I thought I’d been a pretty good dad. And on some level, I had been. But I realized I hadn’t ever led the life of a super dad. I’d not understood how tremendous a mom that Wendy had been—or how much work it took. To her credit, she rarely asked for help. And to my shame, I rarely offered it.
“Done properly, parenting is a heroic act,” says fashion designer Edna Mode in Incredibles 2. And she’s right. But as anyone who’s watched any of the Avengers movies—or the Incredibles movies too, for that matter—heroes work better together. And they have to sacrifice for one another, too.
Heroes at Home
“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
Jesus says this in Mark 9:35. It’s not the last time he exalts servanthood. Take a spin through the New Testament, and you’ll see reference after reference of how blessed it is to serve. How Christlike it is.
Heroes—be they of the superhero variety or everyday heroes—are inherently servants. Sure, they may wear capes or win medals, but that doesn’t make them heroic. They earn the title because of what they give.
But as Edna suggests, the same could be said for fathers. Every day they’re called to sacrifice a bit of themselves for their children. Super dads serve their family members and that is what is truly heroic. They give their time to homework and basketball practice. Fathers shuffle their money to piano teachers and orthodontists. Dads teach and praise and sometimes punish. But at their best, they serve. They give of themselves gladly because they love their children so deeply. And in so doing, they follow the example of Christ, who gave so much for them.
Super Dads Serve
Sometimes, I think, we parents forget to serve each other. And I think we dads can be especially guilty of that. Even as we treasure our children, we lose sight of the priceless jewel that is our spouse. That can be especially true in Christian circles, by the way. The Bible tells us, after all, that we must lead our families. But we forget—all too conveniently sometimes, I believe—that biblical leadership is flipped on its head: We lead by serving—“even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).”
In Incredibles 2, Bob shows us that the life of a super dad is a life of service. He gives his time, his effort and his attention to his children. Bob allows his wife the space she needs to do her own important work. We see him stay up all night to learn how to help Jack with his homework. With Edna’s help, he works out how to deal with Jack-Jack. He even makes inroads with Violet, who for much of the movie found her father to be inept and insensitive.
Super Dads Serve...Just as Jesus Did
Late one night, a sleep-deprived Bob confesses his insecurities to Violet. It serves as an apology of sorts. And a promise. And maybe an unintentional plea for patience and understanding.
“I just want to be a good dad,” he says, barely able to keep his eyes open.
“You’re not good,” Violet tells him. “You’re super.”
I can’t think of a greater compliment, can you? Super dads serve just as Jesus did. When whatever money you’ve earned is gone, when whatever trophies or honors you’ve earned at your job have faded or rusted, that simple accolade remains and lives on—paving the way for dads for generations to come.
And when we compare ourselves to Bob “Mr. Incredible” Parr, we have an advantage. After all, our kids don’t spontaneously combust.