I’m a good guy.
I don’t mean this as a brag, humble or otherwise. I’m a pretty good husband and father. I care about my family, both immediate and extended. I’m a social worker full-time and a religious school teacher part-time. I put a lot of effort into treating people with respect, even when they are not necessarily returning the favor. I think it’s pretty safe to say that people would consider me a good person.
And yet, even with all that positive energy, I love being the villain. When I would play video games that gave me the option, I would always play the bad guys. In Star Wars, I would play as the Empire. In Street Fighter, M. Bison was one of my favorites. I loved X-Men comic books, but I thought Magneto and Sabertooth were more interesting than the good guys.1 When I watch action movies, I’m the first person to criticize the bad guys for wasting time talking to the protagonists, rather than just killing them and carrying out their plans for world domination. Honestly, Goldfinger, what were you thinking? You had Bond immobilized; the laser was fancy and made every guy nervous because of where it would have hit Bond first. You say you expected him to die; you should have just shot him.
But I digress.
I bring all this up because last week, my inner villain came back for a brief encore performance. Eitan and I were spending the afternoon together while Trudy went to a doctor’s appointment and we were having a great time. We played baseball outside, built skyscrapers with his Magna-Tiles and read a few books. But it was getting later in the afternoon and I knew that Eitan needed to nap in order to control his behavior when we went out to dinner that evening. Also, I had some work to do, which I knew would not get done while he was awake.
I tried to be reasonable, at first. I agreed to play for a few more minutes and I set a timer on my phone so that Eitan would know when it was time to stop. When time was up, I let Eitan choose where he wanted to sleep. I offered to lie down with him and to play a lullabye on my phone. I offered to sing to him. I agreed to read a few books and gave Eitan another drink of water and another applesauce pouch. Each time I tried to get him to fall asleep, though, he resisted. This went on for over an hour; time was ticking and my patience, which is usually in abundant supply, was waning.
It was at that moment that I remembered a post I had seen on a fellow Dad Blogger’s page2 and realized that Eitan was probably just old enough that I could use that same idea to get Eitan to fall asleep. And so, my villainous side resurfaced.
I got Eitan’s Buzz Lightyear toy and placed him on the counter with his head and shoulders over the edge. The slightest push would have sent him hurtling downward into the garbage can.
Then I went to Eitan and exclaimed, “Eitan, Buzz Lightyear needs your help! Can you be a superhero just like Buzz and help him?”
Eitan’s face lit up. “Yeah, I can help him!”
I brought him into the kitchen and showed him where Buzz was lying, with the open garbage can below him. “Buzz is in danger! The Evil Dr. Pork Chop put him here on the counter and put a force field around him. He’s going to fall into the garbage and you won’t be able to play with him anymore if we don’t do something to save him!”
Eitan’s eyes grew wide with fear. “But I want to play with him!”
Immediately, all I could think of was Mr. Burns:
“I know you do, that’s why we have to work together to save Buzz! Dr. Pork Chop put the force field around Buzz so that you can’t touch him but I know how to get rid of the force field: you have to fall asleep!”
Eitan looked at me without a trace of skepticism. “I can’t touch him?”
“No, not right now, because of the force field. Here, look.” I picked Eitan up and stretched his hand out toward Buzz. Just before he touched Buzz, I pulled him back and made a clanging sound. I did it a few times and Eitan actually laughed at the sound a bit before the fear came back to his face.
“But I want to play with him!” he repeated, tears starting to well up in his eyes.
“I know, and I want you to also. But you have to fall asleep in order to get rid of the force field and then, right after you wake up, you can come and save Buzz from falling. In fact, once the force field goes away, I bet Buzz’s wings will start working again and he’ll fly over and wait on the bed until you wake up.”
“Okay, I want to go to sleep to save Buzz,” he said, trying to sound hopeful through his sobs.
I brought Eitan to the bed and laid him down. I lay down next to him and put some soft music on my phone. Eitan looked up and asked, “Buzz isn’t going to fall, right?”
I smiled back and said, “No, he won’t fall. Once you’re asleep, he’s going to break out of Dr. Pork Chop’s trap and he’ll fly over here to wait for you to wake up.
Satisfied with the answer, Eitan closed his eyes and fell asleep in minutes.
I breathed a sigh of relief, closed the garbage in the kitchen and brought Buzz in to watch over his superhero best friend while he slept.
Do I feel badly for scaring my son into taking a nap? I suppose, a little. Of course, I’d have preferred to get him to take a nap without resorting to creating an evil plan. That being said, I did not threaten him with something real. I did not make Eitan question my love for him or whether he was in danger. I gave Eitan the chance to do something good for his friend. He knows that superheroes help other people and this was an opportunity to let Eitan be a superhero too. Plus, I won’t be able to play these games forever, so I figured I should make the most of them while I can.
The evil plan was just an added bonus.
1. Wolverine was an exception because he had a more checkered past, but Cyclops was such a boy scout that I always found him boring.↩
2. This particular Dad Blogger’s name is David Vienna and he writes over at The Daddy Complex. He’s hilarious and thoughtful and sarcastic and just published a book. Also, here’s the post that gave me the idea for this bit with Eitan.↩