This past week marked the second Halloween I spent with my son. The only other was nine years ago, before he was even a year old. I have not been what you would call a present father. When I was released from prison, I had spent almost half of his life incarcerated and the other half I had been addicted to opiates. Being free in body and mind and able to take him trick-or-treating felt like a real milestone.
Last year, he had dressed up as Hiccup, the main character from a movie called "How to Train Your Dragon." Well, this year when he said he wanted to be a burglar, like Ant-Man, a character in his most recent favorite movie, I imagine there weren’t many second thoughts given. However, when I heard him give my parents this explanation, I swallowed a little hard. I knew something that nobody else around my son did.
The first movie my son and I had watched together after I was released was "Ant-Man." He chose it because it was the only Marvel movie he had not yet seen, and it couldn’t have been a more perfect choice. The movie starts with Ant-Man being released from prison, so the parallels between him and myself were immediately drawn.
It was also really cool because of the focus that was put on the relationship between Ant-Man and his child. What I really found encouraging was that Ant-Man could become the hero despite his past. I felt that was as good a time as any to let my son know why I had gone to prison.
We had not really talked about it before, except on one occasion: When I was in prison and talking to him on the phone, he came out of the blue and said, “I know why you are in jail, because you smoked drugs.” I just agreed and told him drugs are really bad.
I told my son I had also been sent to prison for burglary. And there it was. He asked, “You were a burglar like Ant-Man?” I paused the movie to talk to him about how wrong it was to steal from people and do drugs and how when someone does that, they will end up in jail and away from their family. I felt it was a really good talk.
I hadn’t thought much more about him knowing the details of why I was in prison until he told my parents that for Halloween this year he was a burglar, like Ant-Man. I didn’t say anything at the time, because I didn’t want him to feel bad about his costume choice, but I probably need to chat with him.
A dad is often a child’s hero, whether or not they deserve to be. In the movie, Ant-Man’s ex-wife had the best quote. In reference to their child she said, “Become the hero she already thinks you are.” I know I haven’t earned such a title, but my son is going to look up to me either way. I can’t change the past, but I plan on being a good example going forward and I’m super grateful for the opportunity. Life is good.