Each night, my 4-year-old son falls asleep to praise songs – I sing them and they're about him.
"Tonight, can the song be about how brave and strong I was today?" his bright face beams in the dark.
Being brave and strong is Joah's chief occupation. Right after his morning tea, he pushes a toy dagger down one side of his shorts, a hand knife down the other, and then he draws his Zorro mask over his eyes. "Are you ready to fight the bad guys?" I ask. He stares at the ceiling and then out the window and then at the floor. I see a little boy daydreaming; he sees his acts of heroism playing out, in a hundred scenes before breakfast.
So, come evening, he has earned a few praise songs.
"And," he continues, as he fluffs up his pillow, "can you sing that I am stronger even than Superman?"
Superman has been Joah's persona of choice since he pressed me for some superhero information. "Which superhero do you love?" he asked me.
"Well I quite like..."
"No," he interrupted, "I said, which superhero do you love?"
I got back to him the next day: "OK, so Batman is a bit dark. He has issues." (A friend getting her master's in psychology explained that to me.)
"And Spider-Man got his powers from an evil-looking spider that bit him." (My husband, who once spent an entire night fighting spiders in our tent, explained this to me.)
"So I think if I had to love one superhero it would be Superman. He seems really good, with no dark side. And really brave and strong. He was delivered to us from outer space, with all his powers intact. And he was a journalist – there's no dirt on him." (My dad, a retired journalist, explained that to me.)
This was just what Joah needed: a superhero worth copying, someone worth singing about.
"I don't think Superman will like it," he laughed, as he rolled over in bed, "but sing about how much stronger I am than him."
"OK," I said, warming up my singing voice: "My Jo is so strong, he's so brave, he's so mighty. He's stronger than Superman, he's braver than Spider-Man and Batman is so weak compared to Jo, Jo, Joah."
"Can you sing it again?"
"OK, one last time."
"And tomorrow night can you sing for longer?"