Clark Kent’s Lunchbox: What’s In A Name?

Superman and Fatherhood

Fathering Superheroes  
One question I am often asked is how I came up with the name Clark Kent's Lunchbox for a dad blog to which my immediate response is a quip about it being something of an accident. The real answer, however, is a bit longer. When I started this blog back in 2007, I did so with the intention of improving my writing; I had no idea there was such a thing as daddy blog (or even a mommy blog for that matter). But that didn’t mean fatherhood wasn’t weighing heavily on my mind.

In fact, putting my thoughts on the topic into context and becoming a fan of The Man of Steel ran congruent to one another. I explain this better in How Superman Made Me a Better Father, and so I’ll bypass those details here. The lone item I will mention, though, is that my attraction to the Superman Mythos had less to do with the actual character, than it did his adoptive parents on earth, Jonathan and Martha Kent. (You can find a quick primer on them here.)

Jonathan and Martha Kent

Jonathan, Martha & Clark at the farm
My curiosity about this simple couple who took in a strange alien child on their quiet farm near Smallville, Kansas, revolved around the concept of what kind of parents they would have to be in order to raise the most powerful being on the planet. How exactly does one deal with a cantankerous baby, a willful toddler, or a surly teenager capable of leveling entire buildings using his fists and incinerating objects via his eyes? 

Dwelling on this caused me to compare myself to the Kents. If they managed to ingrain such a strong sense of moral character and compassion in the boy they named Clark that people would later refer to him as the Big Blue Boy Scout, then did my own children deserve anything less from me as a parent? Sure, the whole story is pure fiction, but does that mean it’s not worth aspiring to? I don’t think so. 

Who Really is Clark Kent?

Who is Clark Kent?
What’s rather ironic about having a blog named Clark Kent’s Lunchbox is that people believe I’m alluding to myself as being Clark. As such, I receive quite a lot of tongue-in-cheek ribbing about exercising my superpowers, which I’ll play along with in the spirit of good fun. Even so, the thought that others are under the impression I’m trying to pass myself off as some form of an omnipotent superhero makes me sheepish. 

I am no better than anyone else; so for me to say I’m super anything, feels arrogant on my part. The truth of the matter is that I don't see myself as mild-mannered reporter, Clark Kent, but rather Jonathan Kent, the father who did his best to instill in his son about the lessons learned from the consequences of right and wrong choices, and the obligations in looking out for the wellbeing of others. At the same time, I also represent Superman’s biological father, Jor-El, the Kryptonian statesman-scientist who imparted the knowledge, wisdom and guidance his son, Kal-El (Superman’s birth name) would need for facing the world’s larger challenges.

Superman's Biological Father, Jor-El
So, who then is “Clark Kent?” Simply put, Clark symbolizes my children. He is my sons, Noah, Harrison, and Sawyer; and he is my stepdaughters, Allie and Avery. No, they may not possess freeze breath or X-ray vision (thank goodness), but they do have their own powers from within that can be used for either good or evil depending on what decisions they make in life. Furthermore, my children will have their own versions of Lex Luthor and General Zod to contend with, and who I am as a father today will impact the paths my children choose and they manner in which they will handle difficult situations now and in the future. To me, this is every bit as crucial as parenting someone who can fly at supersonic speeds. 

But A Lunchbox?

I’m not sure why, but reflecting on the things I hand on to my children brings to mind the image of me giving them their lunches as they head out the door on their way to school. This is where the idea for the “Lunchbox” came from. Hokey? Maybe. But in the same way we want to provide our children healthy food that will make them stronger, we also work to provide them with what they need in order to become stronger individuals, and what they need comes in the form of my actions and my words—words that I’ve been pack into this blog for several years now. 

Exploding Planet, Lost Farm, and a Basic Truth

Kal-El's Escape from Krypton
Why am I explaining all of this? A few weeks ago I seriously considered quitting blogging. In my personal life, the planet Krypton was on the verge of exploding, and the Kent farm was about to be repossessed by the bank (metaphorically)--difficult situations that haven’t changed much (and ones I’m reluctant to even mention because, like Jonathan Kent I have too much pride). 

Since that railing, slightly self-righteous post of mine, a lot has happened in the parenting blogosphere, the details of which don’t need to be rehashed here. In following all these situations, I’ve found it disheartening to see many say that they’ve lost faith in people over some of what’s happened. Most who have made this remark I realize, said this within the context of the world of blogging and thus, it does not actually mean complete hopelessness. 

Still, a number of us parent bloggers really open ourselves up on our sites. We invest a great deal of time and energy into what we write, and it represents at least a portion of who we truly are inside. So when circumstances such as those mentioned earlier occur, then it’s only natural for these situations to result in hurt feeling and diminished trust. This is where I was at as I considered "selling off the farm" so to speak. 

A quiet moment for Clark at the Kent farm
But then I was reminded of an important truth both Jonathan Kent and Jor-El reminded their son of on a continual basis: At mankind’s core exists a basic goodness that’s always worth believing in and fighting for. 

In regards to all that’s happen in the recent past, I’ve witnessed this play out (at the blogger level) in the form of all the encouraging comments and emails I received while pondering my future. This however, was dwarfed by the support and compassion demonstrated amongst other bloggers who were involved in situations much more serious than the one at the center of my minor little hissy fit.  In seems like on an almost daily basis, I see people supporting causes, raising awareness, and helping others. The opportunities afforded through blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc are astounding, and what's more, I'm able to witness the best of who we are playing out right in front of me.

Purpose in Symbols of Hope

Lex Luthor
Are there “villains” out there, so concerned about themselves that they refuse to see the needs of others? There always will be, both on and off the computer. Can our world explode into millions of pieces? It can, but jettisoning from the debris, a hope can exist leading us to someplace better. Will there be times when it feels as if the things we that cherish most are in danger of being taken from us? Yes, but this may also mean that we have to work harder in order to hold onto them. 

Clark Kent’s Lunchbox was meant to be for my children, yet somewhere along the way, I’ve strayed from this to a certain extent. Losing sight of my original intent, had a hand in making me susceptible to the frustrations that almost caused me to quit. Remembering that people are still good, despite the damage that we are also capable of, restored my commitment to maintaining this site for my children. 

Among comic book fans there's been a debate as to whether or not the Man of Steel still retains any relevancy in our current society. Some contend that his unwavering commitment to truth and sincere concern for others is too unbelievable for people to relate to. (They've even turned him into an emo, Twilight freak.) Of course, I disagree and for many reasons, one of which being what Superman has always symbolized: Hope. And hope is never irrelevant. 

From hope comes faith and commitment, which is easy to forget when negativity surrounds us. Had I acted on this and given up, in effect, what I would’ve really been saying to, not only my children but also others, is that hope is irrelevant, and therefore, placing any faith and commitment in humanity's intrinsic goodness is worthless. And that doesn’t sound like something Jonathan Kent or Jor-El would have imparted to a super hero in the making.

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