Superheroes

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The senior English classes at our high school are working on their college essays, which is both brilliant and problematic. It is brilliant because the students will get these essays written and perfected under the instruction of their teacher; it is problematic because my son is not prepared with a topic. He thought he had another month or two to think. He has nothing to write about. Not. A. Thing.

According to this kid, there is nothing that has happened to him that is essay-worthy. And “college-essay-worthy” at that. There are no experiences that define him. I can’t even get a story from him, and I am a woman who believes everyone has a unique and interesting story.

I sat him down, and I talked to him (actually, I followed him around the house to brainstorm with him, but I digress…). We discussed the trips he has taken, the activities in which he is involved, the club he is starting at school, his culinary program, his “broken” family of origin. Still, we came up empty. Nothing.

Each day, I would hear his rants about the essay, his lack of topic, his teacher and her nagging until I finally threw out anything I could think of. “Why don’t you write about your trip to Hawaii?” I suggested.

“Mom,” the sarcasm oozed thick and heavy. “No one wants to hear about my trip to Hawaii.”

“Well, how about when you almost fell in the volcano?” I continued.

“I didn’t almost fall into a volcano—”

“And your father risked his life to save you,” I interrupted.

“My father would never risk his…,” his voice trailed off. “You know, Mom, you might be on to something!” I could almost see the light bulb go off in his head. “I can write about the time my father died trying to save me!”

Um…. That wasn’t quite what I had in mind, but that was the direction he took my suggestion. “You can’t really make up your college essay,” I informed him. “They want to know who you are, what defines you.”

“But Mom,” his excitement was evident on his face. “What better essay to write if I’m going to school for creative writing? I’m going to tell my teacher that this is my topic for my essay!” He disappeared into the living room.

I sighed. I had grasped at straws, handing him one without thinking it through in the way a high school senior might. There is a lesson to be learned here … I’m just not sure what it is.

One lesson I know for sure. Every kid wants to believe that his parents might have a touch of superhero… that his parents would do anything to save him, should the need arise. I believe we all need to believe in parental superheroism.

But for parents who are not very “parental,” who think only of themselves (year after year, in situation after situation) and their children know there is not even a speck of superhero, well… they might just find themselves starring in an essay featuring a poorly placed volcano.

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