Heroes and Villains

The birthday party last weekend had a superhero theme. The whole thing had been designed around the concept that the kids were heroes. There were hero games and a mystery for the heroes to solve. Occasionally, adults turned evil – at which point the heroes caught them and administered silly string. The whole idea was that the kids were heroes on the look out for bad guys.

So when one of the kids showed up dressed as Venom, I didn’t know what to do. Venom, for those not into comic books, is an evil Spiderman. His costume looks like Spiderman’s, but is black and white instead of red and blue.

I wrote Spiderman on his hero badge and bent down to hand it to him. “Here you go spidey!”

“No, I’m not Spidey. I’m Venom!”

“Well, today you’re a hero. Everyone’s a hero.”

“No! I’m a bad guy! I’m Venom!”

I looked at the badge, thinking fast. I’m all for giving kids their freedom to imagine whatever they want, and Venom certainly has a high “cool” factor, but the party just wouldn’t work if one of the kids was actively playing a bad guy.

“Are you sure? Everyone else is a hero. It’s going to be tough if you’re the only bad guy. They’ll catch you pretty quick.”

He looked around at all the heroes running around: Supermans, Spidermans, Batmans, loads of originals that kids had just dreamed up. “Nah,” he said. “I’m not worried.”

I straightened up and crossed my arms. I was, of course, in costume: superhero shirt with the logo peeking out from behind a black vest, Zorro-style mask, black fedora, black pants. “I’m a hero, too.” I said, looking down at him.

His eyes widened. He licked his lips. He looked around uncomfortably. I bent down, smiling, and clipped his badge to his costume. “Here’s your badge, spidey.”

He laughed out a relieved “Okay!” and then ran off to play.

I checked on him discreetly during the party, just to make sure he was having a good time. He had a great time, and always gave me a high five when I walked past.

Of course, he may have been too scared to do anything else.

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