It is widely considered that 2016 was a terrible year. Well it was, wasn’t it?
It certainly was, if you happened to be a political pollster. First Brexit, then Trump, it makes you wonder if anyone will ever listen to them again, or if anyone ever listened to them in the first place.
It was also a terrible year if you happened to be one of the many celebrities who passed away in that year, and as if to prove that 2016 didn’t have a clue what it was doing, we didn’t see a single Kardashian’s obituary.
Despite all of this (and more) this was actually an amazing year, especially if you happen to be Tim Peake. In case you missed it, he was the British astronaut who spent 6 month aboard the International Space Station. I’ve never really taken much notice of astronautical endeavours before, but I watched a great many of his interviews (he seems to be a one man PR machine), and seems like an incredibly nice bloke who just can’t believe his luck. Without doubt, he will have worked phenomenally hard to achieve what he has done, but that all seems to go unmentioned. In short, he is someone who over the past year, I have grown to admire immensely.
I have to grudgingly admit that this is quite a rarity. Whilst, I am a pathological optimist, I am also incredibly cynical. Like many people of my age, I have seen those I admire totally upstaged by the skeleton (or skeletons) which come shuffling out of the closets which had been so carefully padlocked.
But so far, Major Peake, looks to be the real deal. I’d be really happy for my kids to have him as some sort of aspirational figure, a hero if you will, but then how do you define a hero?
If you’ll humour me for a moment, I would say, that in real life, there are broadly two types of hero.
First, there’s the universally accepted hero. You know the one. Somebody who has done something incredibly noteworthy, brave, or simply something to better the collective human experience. Often these folk will not have had any desire to personally gain from their endeavour, in fact they may put themselves in considerable peril in their undertaking. People who fall into this category, might include inspiration world leaders or people who have stood up for a cause. Like my favourite astronaut, these are people that we would like to become, or possess qualities which we would like to see in ourselves.
Then there are the more normal, run of the mill heroes. These are people, who have had a meaningful impact, personally, on our own lives. They could be a lifeguard who has rescued a family member or a school friend who has stood up to a bully, but whoever they might be, it can be fairly and convincingly argued that these people have had a much more tangible effect on our lives.
What I find really interesting about what I’d call “personal heroes”, is that whenever they are asked whether they think that they are heroes, or that they did something heroic, the answer is almost always the same. “I was just doing my job”, or “I only did what anyone else would do.”
The embarrassment these folk feel, seems almost palpable, and yet I ask you this. Wouldn’t you like to be the hero? I’m not ashamed to admit that I do and I suspect you do too. Who wouldn’t?
What’s really interesting is that as parents we have the opportunity to be a hero every day. Our children think we are the most wonderful beings ever. I am acutely aware of my failings as a human being, but my kids see none of that. All they see is the biggest strongest, funniest, most caring man on earth. They frequently tell me that “You are my best dad ever!” What they really mean is that I am the best dad ever. It is tempting, for me at least, to dismiss this as childish naivety, and on the one hand it is, but I am the only dad they’ve ever had, and even if I weren’t I should still strive to be the best role model, provider and protector I could be for them.
I am extremely fortunate to have had a wonderful father, someone who I can truly call my hero, the man I would like to be. In fact I would be pretty pleased if I could be half the man he is, but that won’t happen. He and I are very different animals and I possess strengths which he doesn’t, and vice versa. This has left me better equipped to deal with some of the challenges of being a parent, and more poorly for others.
All I know is that I must try to be a different kind of hero to my children that my dad was (and is) to me, and I feel like I might be succeeding. Just the other day Mrs L. asked Fraboo who her hero was, and she replied “Thor”, which isn’t a bad call as these things go. Mrs L. explained that he is a superhero and not real (which Fraboo found very disappointing) and asked who her real life hero was, she immediately replied “Daddy!”
It’s moments like that when you feel as though you are doing ok as a parent.
It’s right that children should say that their parents are their heroes, regardless of how good a job they are doing! As parents, we are the standard by which heroes are set, and I firmly believe that we should all be aiming to set the bar higher every day!