Time has come to hang up my superhero cape

I wrote a column for The Hinsdalean in 2018 called "Superhero Moms and Dads" that was about all of the many cool things we do for our kids as they grow up and how we parents should feel like superheroes because our kids see us that way.

It's been about five years since I wrote that article. My husband and I are about to send our firstborn off to college and see our younger son begin senior year of high school. Seemingly overnight, we've gone from superheroes to ordinary humans. In fact, we're dangerously close to becoming villains.

According to our kids, we are not very smart. We're extremely embarrassing. We smell weird and eat gross food. We are tiresome and just barely tolerated.

Our pre-teen sons used to sweetly ask us to bandage a wound or tie their soccer cleats in triple knots so the laces would stay snug during a game. They used to ask me for feedback on an essay or a ride home from school. They used to place their hands on a towel while I trimmed their fingernails and they watched TV.

We had a routine - they needed us, and we served them lovingly, patiently. The routine was, at times, exhausting and overwhelming, but my husband and I rose to the occasion for these incredible little humans we created.

We got really good at leaping high parenting hurdles; we practiced and leaped a little higher each year. We were and still are efficient, talented multitaskers leaping like athletes, but the track meet is wrapping up, and we didn't get a ribbon.

Now, when my son walks into the house with a Kramer's bag containing a few groceries he wanted, I'm so happy not to be asked to go to the store for a fifth time that week, but also I'm insulted that he bypassed me and did it himself. Who shops Kramer's better than I do? No one. But I'm being ridiculous, I know.

The unsaid message is, "Stay in your lane, Mom and Dad."

It's just that my lane seems very narrow these days, even if our kids think it's too wide. I bite my tongue a lot - but not enough - over fingernails, dorm room decor and to-do lists. Last week, I was possessed with a sudden urge to buy my son a raincoat so he'd stay dry on rainy days at college, but he calmly said, "Nah - I don't need one."

My Wonder Woman jet (my car) sits idly in the driveway more often these days and is strangely clean. Fewer errands are calling. I look in awe at my near-adult children with beards on their faces. I admire them as they swiftly, easily, deposit checks from summer jobs on their bank mobile apps. I wonder about who they will become.

My superhero cape feels like an out-of-season parka ready to be stored in the hall closet for now. Has our family outgrown it? I remember winter coats my kids wore as toddlers that had these I-Grow sleeves that let you snip the colorful threads in the lining to lengthen the sleeves two inches for another season of wear.

Are there colorful threads for my superhero cape? I hope so. We'll never be superheroes and wear that cape in quite the same way again, but my husband and I would love to fly around in the periphery, observing, cheering, and maybe even helping our adult children save the day in their very own way.

- Carol Wittemann of Hinsdale is a guest columnist. Readers

can email her at

[email protected].