I’m in M&S shopping for women’s knickers. Correct. Hold that thought.

It doesn’t matter how many adverts, billboards or infographics you see, I don’t think anyone has ever called a family meeting and pooled resources for the possible event of an alien invasion. And why would you? Preempting this unpredictable tragedy, seems a bit macabre. Why, even fleetingly, would you acknowledge those future feelings of despair and anxiety when they may never even occur? And even if you were to, what are you planning for? Until it happens, you don’t know what you will need in your ASK (Alien Survival Kit) and even then it constantly changes. How will it effect you; physically, mentally, your family dynamic, your everyday? Nothing can prepare you.

Above all these reasons, I guess there was one main contributing factor as to why I personally have never even considered this previously and why even now when I do think about it (and I do…a lot), all I feel is numbness and a complete disconnect. It’s because…

Our parents are invincible, immortal superheroes!

Aren’t they?

My mam (and dad) picked me up and held me tightly when I cried as a child, told me ‘there’s no such word as can’t’ when my disability was getting the better of me, gave me some tough love when I wanted to take my leg splint off and just be like everyone else. When I couldn’t see a way around things, they could. When I was scared they were brave. When I was anxious, they were calm. And when I couldn’t fight any longer they’d tag me out and take my place in the ring. They still do.

My parents are wonderful – and whenever I ran to them (or at them) with any volatile ticking bomb of a problem, never, not even once did they take a step back (or at least never in my sight). As superheroes do, they grabbed the bomb and flew it out of the solar system, like some Warner Bros character, they swallowed it whole and contained the explosion, they wrapped their arms around me and became a superhuman shield, they whispered that I too was a superhero and I’d had the power to do it all along.

Even now, as an adult, the Peter Pan inside of me still believes that they are immortal and will be here to save the day until the end of time. The Mr. Darling in my head knows that this is not true, especially now that the alien has arrived.

Nevertheless, it is still a huge shock to the system that parents are just human (who would have thunk?) and that at some point the roles switch…somehow you have to become accustomed to Lycra yourself, don the cape and wear your underwear on the outside. Somehow you have to become the superhero.

So, I’m in M&S shopping for women’s knickers. Correct. Don’t worry, they aren’t for me to wear over my trousers as part of my superhero costume, they are for my mam. I’m buying her underwear, I’m kissing her forehead when she cries, I’m telling her ‘there’s no such word as can’t’ when she thinks about walking on her new hip, giving her tough love when the alien gets the better of her, I’m navigating this journey with her, I’m (attempting) to be brave, I’m (attempting) to stay calm and if I could, I’d tag her out and fight for her. Then again she is fighting just fine! Especially today – the epidural is out, there are less wires all over the place, she’s eating, she had her hip brace on and is telling the doctor what she wants to achieve tomorrow! Tonight, as only true heroes do we laughed, and I mean properly laughed in the face of danger (well actually we laughed at the joke knickers my friend told me to take in for my mam instead of the M&S ones).

Superhero pants…on a budget

A lot of people have discussed with me the bizarre reality of some elements of the parent/child relationship switching place. And to some degree I agree, just like the alien; you never truly contemplate it until it’s arrived. However, the more I think about it, the more it becomes normal and actually was normal before the alien came. I would do all those things without the alien forcing me to. Even buying knickers.

Roles are only a guide, relationships are only abbreviations of connections, together they are a simple commitment to do what is best for all people involved with whatever tools you have at hand.

The dynamics can change, the dynamics will switch and I’m very lucky that within the Harper clan this would happen irrespective of an alien. It’s the adjustment and what that means which is difficult, but with every East Coast train and number 38 bus, it gets easier.

So maybe my mam (and dad) are not invincible or immortal, but that does not take away the fact that they are most certainly superheroes.

Alien – take note of that last sentence!

*swooshes cape and exits*


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