Iron Man vs. Papa of Steel

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My wife and I recently purchased our son his very first superhero action figure. Which means I am now running for office against an 8-inch-tall figurine.

I have never wanted to run for political office, not even when I found out how much county commissioners earn. I am the sort of person who sits in the wings poking fun at politicians, and I am not keen on having the roles reversed.

Plus, if I did run for public office, there is a good chance I would not win. A better than good chance, a fact illustrated by my low polling numbers in the "Coolest Guy in the House" campaign I'm currently running.

Of course, I didn't realize right away that my long-held seat was being jeopardized by my son's new trash-talking, missile-shooting, plastic playmate. At first I foolishly thought this so-called "Iron Man" would simply be another toy to be avoided on my barefoot trips to the bathroom.

Then the toy began giving my son advice.

"Son, why are you on the counter?" I ask, quickly scanning for knives, glass or open containers that will raise the alert status from the normal almost-red to actual-red.

"Iron Man said, umm, he said, he said he should fly to get a treat," my 21/2-year-old replies after a brief consultation with the toy.

"Well, Iron Man's not the boss," I say smugly.

"Umm ..." My son contemplates this bit of news. "He, he ... Iron Man is big. He flies and he gets bad guys."

Obviously this is a threat, and I'm tempted to respond with a preemptive strike by stuffing Iron Man into the garbage disposal. My wife, in her role as a NATO peacekeeping force, talks me out of it, and thus my political career is launched.

My organization is lackluster to say the best, and I realized early on I would have to significantly outspend my opponent in key polling areas. The problem is his budget for advertising is huge, and I can't control the amount of airtime he gets while I'm at work.

We've had a few debates, always moderated by my son, and I've won some and lost some. In fact, the whole campaign has been pretty brutal, and I'm afraid I have resorted to the kind of below-the-belt tactics featured in the ongoing battle for the Republican nomination.

"Iron Man doesn't have a neck," I point out to my child.

"Yes he does," he laughs. "Right dere."

"But it can't move," I say. "Watch. Papa's neck can move."

"That's silly," my son tells me.

I've tried the same tack for several of Iron Man's various immobile parts, but this is not a key issue among household residents under 3. I have also suggested that Iron Man can't give piggyback rides, drive the car to the store for candy or push the swing set.

On the other hand, I don't shoot lasers from my hands, have jet boots or shoulder mounted missile launchers. I also don't say, "I am Iron Man," or at least when I do my son giggles and says "No, papa. You're not Iron Man."

To make the whole campaign more difficult, my son keeps nagging me to watch Iron Man propaganda films with him. This, of course, was an almost daily routine before the campaign season started, which prompted the ill-advised toy purchase in the first place.

Cleverly, I have tried to introduce other super heroes in an effort to create some doubt in my son's mind that Iron Man is the coolest guy ever. Unfortunately, my favorite comic book crusaders don't appeal to my die-hard Iron Man fanatic son.

They don't fly. Or they don't have a cool mask. Or they don't shoot lasers or missiles. And of course, this brings home the point that neither do I.

On the other hand, there was a bright spot in the campaign last week. A ray of hope in a gloomy election. It happened while watching the Iron Man cartoons.

The propaganda minister wanted to really emphasize that Iron Man can handle just about anything, and so he introduced a ravenous nano-bot creature that was attempting to suck the life force out of the mechanized wonder.

It was pretty convincing, and my son leapt up with a cry and jumped up onto the couch where I was sitting.

"Papa, I'm scared. I don't like that monster," he said, burrowing between me and the cushions.

Even though I'm the guy who sends my son to timeout or says, "no treats until dinner," and "it's time for bed," there is still one thing Iron Man cannot do: change the channel.

Booyah, Iron Man.

Luke Hegdal can be reached at lukehegdal@wwub.com or 526-8326.

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