Poll Position: Heredity bites

Having your own super-powers would be a neat challenge, but would you willingly impose them on your child? That's the heart of this week's Poll Position:


The way I see it, you have two sets of consideration here. First, what effect would having those powers from a young age have on a youngster? And second, how would their abilities affect your ability to parent them effectively while they are growing up? Looking at them one-by-one:

  1. Flash: I think this set of powers presents the fewest disadvantages in terms of childhood development and parenting. Granted, they could more easily run away from home, but if you're at the point where your kid's fleeing your house, you probably have bigger problems than speed. However, the super-fast metabolism also requires huge amounts of food, which would be darn difficult to keep up with.
  2. Human Torch: I've had nephews who almost burned their houses down playing with matches, I shudder to think what a five year old who can hurl fireballs would be like.
  3. Professor Xavier: On the one hand, I think being a child with instant access to the most intimate thoughts of everyone around you would hopelessly warp you. On the other hand, it's possible that knowing everyone else that fully would make you much warmer and stronger and more confident since there could be no lies where you're concerned. But I don't think I could in good conscience take that risk with my son or daughter.
  4. Spider-Man: Most of Peter Parker's problems stem not from his powers but from other factors in his life, so as a "naked" power set this one is pretty attractive. However you almost have to live in a city with tall buildings for Spider-Man to be the most effective -- if you have nothing to swing from, travel gets problematic, and what good is it crawling the walls at Walgreen's, you know?
  5. Superman: How do you parent a god? What if your kid turns out to be a bad apple, as they sometimes do, and you've given them the ability to kill everyone on the planet without breaking a sweat? Having Superman's powers yourself is one thing, giving them to someone else is something else entirely.

So having thought through all that, I think I'd probably choose Spider-Man. He's strong, can avoid trouble, is quick, and couldn't do mass harm if he turned out badly.

10 Responses to Poll Position: Heredity bites

  1. DJ says:

    I agree with the Spiderman comment though they wouldnt be allowed to play sports.

  2. Jeff Hebert says:

    That’s an interesting point, DJ, and something I wondered about after “The Incredibles”. We allow kids to play football who, through winning the genetic lottery, are bigger or faster or stronger than most people. Enhancing those innate abilities through better diet and nutrition, or access to expensive training gyms, is perfectly allowable and even encouraged.

    And yet we outlaw the use of other outside enhancing agents like the natural Human Growth Hormone or steroids. In a world of super-heroes, we would probably outlaw the Spider-Mans and Supermans from playing as well. But why? Superman’s got his DNA just like LaDainian Tomlinson, why does the latter get to play and the former does not?

  3. haz says:

    So, do I have the same power set, or am I a regular Joe? This makes a big difference in just how easily I could manage, say, a mini-Superman. It also affects how often I’m likely to hear, “You just don’t understand!”

  4. thejay says:

    i’d like to add ozymandias from watchmen. being the smartest kid on earth, he’s either likely to become a brilliant inventor or a criminal mastermind (or a director in Apple, which is kinda both) but apart from school beatups he’ll do fine… as long as he doesn’t get his ass kicked by dr. manhattan.

  5. DJ says:

    Because if say Superman were to play football and he tackled someone then he has the potential to break bones or kill someone. It would also give an unfair advantage to the super powered ones because ,even though they got their dna like us, it is diffrent then ours. Quite simply it wouldnt be fair.

  6. Jeff Hebert says:

    @haz: You would be just like you are today (only maybe older), no super-powers.

    @dj: But really strong guys NOW run the risk of breaking bones or killing someone. And everyone’s DNA is different. It seems like it’s a matter of degree, but then you start getting into a weird concept of setting ceilings for how strong or fast or tall or whatever someone can be to participate in an activity. Which seems like sort of regulating down to the least common denominator somehow.

  7. Bael says:

    I don’t know how it turned out, but the International Olympic Committee banned a double amputee (both legs below the knee) because they thought his prosthetics gave him an advantage. Instead of foot shaped mockups, he had flat carbon fiber blades in a sort of reversed question mark shape that act like springs. Last I heard, he was appealing their ruling.

  8. Xstacy says:

    I’d go with Spider-Man too. Even though I don’t live anywhere near a city, I do live near some pretty awesome climbing areas. And unless my kid turned out to be a lot better at chemistry than me, she wouldn’t need any place to swing from, as she’d have no web fluid.

    I wouldn’t want my kid to be super-fast, because she would effectively have the worst case of ADHD ever. And I don’t think a kid with Superman’s full power-set could help but cause massive destruction, so that’s out.

    Any of these power-sets would prevent a kid from being able to play sports if anybody knew about them, even Prof X. Snooping the other team’s playbook so you always know exactly what they’ll do is just as frowned on as unfair physical advantage (if somewhat less frowned on than lighting the other team’s mascot, coach, and waterboy on fire).

  9. Cavalier says:

    The double amputee wanted to try out. Although his times were impressive by most standards, they were a bit lacking for Olympic levels. That was also a matter of ‘equipment’ since he wasn’t born with those. In most sports there are limits to what equipment you can use. This helps make it a test of the athlete rather that that techie.

    Extending the concept of a level playing field, this shows how in a world of ‘supers’ there would be a reevaluation of competition. Just like most combat sports (boxing, wrestling, teakwondo) divide people in to weight classes, super-sports would do the same. Think of the UWF in Marvel, or Jucier-League football in Rifts.

    For that matter, a pitcher in Little League is so good that other teams won’t play his team, That’s obviously just genetics and training, but it’s enough for people to cry ‘foul.’

    Still, we’re not talking incremental improvements ‘real’ people make. No un-powered person, or even team, would stand a chance against Superman or Flash; Northstar still wonders how well he would ski if he didn’t have his powers; and many heroes must be careful when facing ‘soft’ foes.

    And to get back to the poll, I KNOW my son would want Spider-Man. He already acts like he has his powers. And I don’t think any kid would have trouble finding something worth climbing up. Speed and mind-reading would make discipline impossible, too much strength or flames and every tantrum is a disaster.

  10. haz says:

    I took the “Add an answer” button as an invitation to do just that and cast my vote for Wolverine. I admit, he’s not as interesting as far as drawbacks go, unless berserker rage can be seen as an aspect of his powers and not of his personality. Regeneration is never having to worry that your son is bleeding to death in a ditch somewhere.

    I know this is sorta like Superman’s invulnerability, but I think regeneration is better than invulnerability for a child because you get a sense of consequences. Nothing hurts Superman. But Wolverine tries to pop a wheelie on his motorcycle and he gets the pain of meeting pavement at high speeds before it all heals up.