It used to be that, when asked what kind of Superpower I would most like to possess I would say invisibility. (In this I think I am fairly typical: in national surveys, most women choose invisibility; men, on the other hand, pick flying. Sociologists would probably say something about this being because men tend to be more interested in strength than stealth, but I think that the explanation is even more simplistic than that: what woman wouldn’t, given the choice, never have to look at her own waistline again?)
Lately, however, I have decided that I would gladly give up both the ability to fly and to become invisible, if only for a chance at what must usually be considered the minorest of superpowers: the ability to project a cone of silence.
I can’t even remember who possessed this superpower originally; for a while I thought it was Superman, but then somebody pointed out that what he actually had was a Fortress of Solitude (equally appealing). Then I thought that it might be Aquaman before I remembered that, while he did have that cone thing, his was for talking to the fish (not so appealing) Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter who had the cone of silence, because, just like invisibility or flying, this is a superpower I am unlikely ever to possess, which is a shame, because I have been in dire need of it ever since my son, Clyde, turned four and really learned how to fight.
As a veteran parent with almost nine years’ time served, I thought I could handle any noise my children threw at me: non-stop whining for Happy meals, shrill, ear-piercing little girl screaming–even an Elmo movie being popped into the VCR at high volume on an early Sunday morning. With my special “la-la-la-can’t-hear-you” powers of extra strength denial I was invincible: crying jags that would cause my husband (and the neighbors) to consider emigration would barely cause me to glance up from my book long enough to smugly say, “Oh, does that noise bother you?”
Of course, like a Greek heroine mocking the power of the gods, I should have known that eventually I would be punished for my misplaced pride: in my case, punishment came in the form of a heaping helping of sibling rivalry.
Before Clyde turned four, I never gave sibling rivalry much thought: with nearly five year’s difference in my kids’ ages, I thought that Clementine would, with a few well-placed blows, quickly and brutally establish her supremacy right from the start. (In my defense, I’m sure the Russians thought much the same thing when they went into Afghanistan.)
What I failed to consider, however, is that with Clyde there can be no ultimate supremacy, because Clyde never quits. To put it another way: that boy sure can take a punch. Sure, he still dissolves into a hysterical, crying mess after each blow, but then he’s back for more. And therein lies my problem.
It seems that the combination of Clementine’s shrieks of rage, Clyde’s cries of attack/retreat/attack, and the assorted calls from both demanding immediate punishment
of the other all triangulate perfectly to burst right through my protective “la-la-la” barrier. It’s like I’m a dog, and they finally found the right whistle.
My husband finds all this highly amusing–having grown up as one of seven combatants, he now finds that he is the one immune to our children’s “dulcet tones”. This, of course, is evidence of the gods at there most merciless; how else would you explain my husband glancing up smugly from his book in order to say to me: “Oh, does that noise bother you?”