Just over eleven years ago I gave birth to Iron Man.
I didn’t realise it at the time of course. When the midwife handed him to me, she didn’t say ‘Congratulations. It’s a Superhero’. He didn’t have a mini Arc Reactor protruding from his tiny ribcage and he didn’t shoot laser beams from his chubby little fists whenever he was hungry or tired. That would be silly.
So, I here you cry ‒ and will you please stop doing that because it’s very distracting – if my son isn’t called Stark, and wasn’t left on the doorstep with a red and gold helmet tucked in his blanket and a note saying ‘Please look after this Avenger’, then how do I know he’s destined to assume Tony’s mantle?
I’ll tell you.
What I should make clear from the start is that he’s an apprentice Iron Man, for when the present one chooses to hang up his hover boots and give up his second day job as mechanised saviour of the free world.
My first piece of evidence is the Arc Reactor tee-shirt my son wears, in preparation for having pieces of shrapnel embedded in his chest, needing the Reactor’s electromagnetic forces to stop the metal penetrating his heart (for those of you who haven’t a clue what I’m going on about, I refer you to the franchise.)
But this is not the only evidence I have that my boy will one day save the universe.
My second and main reason for this belief is the training films. Hours and hours of them, seemingly on repeat, a continuous loop of lasers, bomb blasts and nifty flying exercises, all snappily edited and usually accompanied by a pumping heavy metal sound track, like some testosterone-packed corporate video for weapons dealers.
And showing astounding dedication to his future career, it’s not just Iron Man he studies.
There are other training films which include: a muscle-bound blond guy with a stilted English accent wielding his ‘magic’ hammer (yeah, all right, he-man, we get the symbolism)*: a teenage newspaper photographer who fires stringy mucus from his hands and thinks he’s an arachnid (you really should see a specialist about that, Peter)**: a doctor who is really lovely – mostly – if a bit downbeat and introspective (‘You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry’? Yeah, well, you haven’t seen me when someone leaves the toilet seat up, sister)***.
There’s a ton of other egomaniacs being angsty and fighting other egomaniacs – many of them wear cloaks, which seems impractical in a battle situation.
Anyway, I try and be a supportive, liberal parent. I want to nurture, not crush my son’s fledgling ambitions, even if they don’t fit into my pre-conceived ideas of a sensible career path. After all, I did tell him if he worked really hard he could achieve anything ‒ though I confess I was thinking more along the lines of piano lessons rather than arms manufacturing. Anyway, not wishing to dampen his enthusiasm, I let him watch and re-watch his training videos – time and time and time again.
But quite honestly, I can’t face seeing another over-pumped caveman bash another one to smithereens before standing atop a mountain/ skyscraper/ the Golden Gate Bridge or other such iconic landmark, brooding over how sad and lonely it is to be an over-pumped caveman … so I read.
The volume from the TV blares (because, despite my protestations, it is apparently impossible to watch without the sound being loud enough to cause involuntary fracking along the Severn Estuary), but I wriggle into the cushions, push back the recliner, tuck up my toes and read.
At the moment it’s The Axeman’s Jazz by Ray Celestin (very good, if you’re wondering) but another day it’ll be whatever I’m reading at the time.
My flow’s sometimes interrupted as a city explodes or a baddy monologues, but generally, I can concentrate enough to be at least semi-lost in my book.
And all with the knowledge I’m playing my small part in the future saving of the world – probably.
Can and do you read while the TV’s on? Or do you need peace, quiet and chocolate biscuits to concentrate?
*Thor, of course.
**Your friendly, neighbourhood Spiderman.
***King of angst, David Banner – aka The Hulk