Unlike the days of old, today's good guys might forgo the white Stetson, choosing instead to dress in a spandex unitard. But, in broad strokes, my boys know superheroes do good things and supervillains do bad things. So, when it came time to teach my boys a lesson, I used that language. And to make the point clear, I did something dastardly, something fiendish, something... deliciously evil.
My boys had just gotten little stuffed superheroes. They each picked their favorite -- Boone picked Iron Man, Wyatt picked Batman. (Both characters are rich, ass-kicking philanthropists. Perfect role models, if you ask me.) When it came time to start the bedtime routine, they started misbehaving. It continued after bedtime and finally reached a crescendo when I heard them giddily throwing toys in their darkened room.
I stormed in told them they needed help us by going to bed, that Iron Man and Batman help people and they do so by making good decisions, by doing what's right. Then, to give a real-world example of this, I quickly devised a devious plan.
I took their new cuddly Iron Man and Batman and put them in mortal peril by tying rope to their legs and dangling them over the kitchen trash bin. The boys could rescue their toys in the morning, but only if they went to bed. If not, I'd cut the rope and the toys would drop into the trash. Good decisions get good results, bad decisions mean the Pit of Death and Expired Meatloaf.
Mind you, this wasn't fun. I was pissed and trying to figure out how to shut them down. As I was ranting at the boys about what would happen, my wife standing next to me whispered, "That's diabolical."
I did something evil to get my way and I told the potential heroes my plan. You know what that means: I am a supervillain.
But, it worked. The boys fought back their tears and went to bed. The next morning, I woke them up with the cartoonish threat that the heroes were about to meet their doom. They chased me into the kitchen where I untied the ropes and pretended to try to drop the toys in the trash. Both Wyatt and Boone got to rescue their toy and felt like saviors in the process.
I don't know if the lesson stuck or not. As most parents do, I came up with that solution on the fly, not exploring whether it could stand as a long-term fix. All I know is that night the boys went to bed, got a full night's sleep and had a bit of fun in the process. And, in that moment, they understood that good decisions get good results and helping people comes in many forms, even if it means simply going to sleep.
So, I may have been an actual villain in my house, but my boys were heroes. That's more important to me. I'm currently growing a mustache so I can twirl it the next time this happens.
Portions of this originally appeared at TheDaddyComplex.com.