Real Life Is Better Than Spider-Man

Our friend Todd is a sound editor at a movie studio. I rarely think to ask what project he’s working on, probably because I will never be more excited about any movie than I was when he was working on Charlie’s Angels back in the late 90’s. THERE’S NO POSSIBLE WAY TO TOP IT.

Obviously it’s an endlessly cool thing for Alex that his Uncle Todd has such up-close access to movies, especially when those movies feature characters like Spider-Man. So with every new installment of The Amazing Spider-Man, Todd has faithfully sent Alex a movie poster.


Last summer Alex decided that he wanted to display all of his Spider-Man posters in the hallway that leads to his bedroom. Even though that area is fairly visible and should probably be decorated with some grown-up paintings and mirrors and trinkets and whatnot, I told him it would be fine. So one night he and David hung up all three posters with some very precise alignment and spacing, and every time I’d walk through that part of the house, I’d grin and think that it was sort of like living at Carmike.

Seriously. I’d want to pop some popcorn and take up tickets and remind the patrons to turn off their cell phones.

So even though the posters weren’t in the most conventional spot, they never bothered me, mainly because I’d look at them and inevitably remind myself that before long Alex will be at college while David and I sit in our room and watch Finding Nemo at 2 in the morning and wonder where all the time went. Besides, Spider-Man has been Alex’s favorite superhero for most of his life. He and his daddy both enjoy the Marvel characters, and Spider-Man has been a part of their conversations pretty much since Alex could talk. When he was four he even dressed up like Spider-Man for Halloween.


(I know. SUCH A NUGGET.)

(And you’d better believe it’s taking everything in me right now to resist the VERY STRONG URGE to put iPhoto in slideshow mode, play “If These Walls Could Speak,” and proceed with some endless blubbering.)

(Because I’m really not sure how this picture was over seven years ago.)

Alex fought many a sword battle in that Spider-Man costume – even when the bottoms of the legs wouldn’t go any farther than his knees – and given his continued enthusiasm for all things Peter Parker, I sort of assumed that those posters in our hallway would be there until he graduated from high school.

Which is why you can imagine my surprise when he took all of them down a few nights ago.

I was watching TV at the time, so it initially took me a minute or two to figure out what strange noise I was hearing in the hallway. When it finally dawned on me that I was hearing the sound of posters falling off the wall corner by corner, I wondered why in the world he’d want to put them away. I didn’t say anything, though; he seemed determined to finish the task without explanation, and truth be told I didn’t really think about it again.

Until Saturday morning.

Because Saturday morning is when I noticed something new in the place of those posters: an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of laminated construction paper. I moved closer so I could read it, then continued to study it for a several minutes before I called Alex down the hall and asked him what it was.

“Well,” he said, “last week my teacher took some paper and put a different person’s name at the top of every sheet. She passed the sheets of paper around the room, and underneath each person’s name, we all wrote words that describe him or her. Then Mrs. McGehee put all the words in the computer and made every student a heart out of the words people listed for us.”

Sure enough, the words that filled that heart were crazy-accurate descriptions of our boy. I’m guessing that most of us have done something similar to this activity – maybe back in the day at youth group or as some sort of team building exercise as an adult – but as far as I know, this was the first time Alex had been a part of this particular kind of encouragement. So when I saw that relatively small piece of paper tacked up in the place where three full-size Spider-Man movie posters used to live, I realized how much those words must mean to him.


I’ve been thinking about that piece of paper for the better part of three days.

More than anything, I guess, it represents the sweetest shift. Slowly but surely Alex is learning that watching and even pretending to be the most awesome superhero in the history of ever doesn’t hold a candle to the comfort and the peace of being really seen and known by his people. He is such a typical 5th grade boy in so many ways (this is a child whose favorite item of clothing is a new t-shirt from a local BBQ place that says “You Can Smell Our Butts For Miles” across the back), but those life-giving words touched him way down deep in his heart, maybe even more than he knows how to express to his daddy and me.

Now granted, it’s also good to remember that our true identity comes from Christ and not from other people’s assessments of who we are. In fact, I hope we’ll fill up even more of that wall space with words to that end. But that little orange piece of paper has brought about some fresh conviction that 1) a little encouragement goes a long way and 2) OUR WORDS MATTER, especially when it comes to affirming each other’s God-given characteristics.

Just ask Spider Man. He’s been forced into temporary retirement at our house just because some 5th grade kids listened to their teacher and decided that building up their friends was a pretty good idea.

Peter Parker would get on board with that, don’t you think?

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” – Proverbs 16:24

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29

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  1. Beautiful and so true! He’s a fortunate boy and you are a fortunate mama!

  2. Rebecca says:

    So.very.special! This warms my heart in so many ways. What a valuable life skill to learn at this age. Hope this teacher is getting a really GOOD gift! Wink wink!

  3. Julie R says:

    I was getting teary-eyed reading this post because MY babies are now 15, 16, and 21…they’re practically grown. THEN I read the line about your son’s favorite t-shirt. I ALMOST DIED LAUGHING! (I’m sitting here at work in an empty office – just me and our custodian – laughing OUT LOUD.)

    I may need that t-shirt.

    • Melissa says:

      My thoughts exactly – in tears then spit out my water at the computer screen laughter. Just one more reason to love Boomama!

  4. Aunt Nancy says:

    Tears are rolling down my cheeks – just because of the sweetness of this post.
    Warms my heart. Thank you.

  5. Got a lump in my throat reading this one. All 4 of our children did this activity at one point in their lives. In fact, right now, on my middle son’s bedroom door, is a pink heart with some affirming words on it from his peers in his 4th grade class. And my son? He doesn’t even live here anymore, because he’s MARRIED and wants to live with his wife. :) But, if a rough and tumble, football-playing boy will keep a heart-shaped piece of pink paper on his bedroom door through middle school, high school and college…well, it just further proves your point about how much our words matter.

  6. I love this! What a great reminder: Our words matter!

  7. So sweet. Watching boys grow up is so tough. I read the t-shirt slogan to my husband and we had a good laugh. I don’t know that I’ll read it to the 13yo because he may want to mail order it and I’m not sure I could take it. ;)

  8. Mary Kat's Mom says:

    Thanks for the tear-stained face at work, Sophie. Really though, that was SUPER sweet! I love your writing but also that you share such great things with us out here in the internet world. Thank you.

  9. Becca G says:

    I love this precious idea for encouragement. Do you know how the Teacher made the heart?

  10. Oh, Sophie. You have channeled the Holy Spirit today and these words, while I am sure are just one more candid snapshot into the Hudson House from your perspective, may change the future of my family. In an alternate reality, where I did not read this blog, I am preparing for a serious sit down meeting about our problems as a family – which mostly is about how very taken for granted I am, stemming from a truly sucky Mother’s Day. Maybe the new reality will be a fresh set of grace filled eyes for me, because while I wanted one of those heart words for myself, maybe I just need to re-emphasize the words they need to hear.

    • Oh! I got bogged down in the truth of it all, and forgot to add that I’ve had a crush on Peter Parker since I was a tiny thing myself, so clearly Alex has very good taste in superheroes.

    • anotherlisa says:

      praying for you, Paige. we all have our love languages, and I’ve had to adjust my expectations and open my eyes to the gifts my family was able to give me, and i don’t mean flowers and candles.
      we’re to speak up for ourselves, because we matter, but it’s a great idea to first speak words of love. Instead of asking for our needs to be met, those words of encouragement are so life-giving, that they’ve blessed me (and met some of those needs), blessing the giver as much as the receiver.
      and yes, Sophie does indeed get used by the Holy Spirit. so thankful for your insight, and that you heed His urging to write what blesses us, your readers!

  11. This is such a touching story about your boy! I love that his teacher did this for all the students and I bet none of those students threw those words away.

  12. This is beautiful! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all had a heart like this to proudly put on our walls? If we had one, would we display it or would we hide it because we were embarrassed? Everyone needs to know how worthy we are!

  13. Becca G says:

    Thanks a bunch!

  14. Robin Ivey says:

    HOLD TIGHT to that sweet boy and the memories you are making. In the blink of an eye he’ll be checking GPA’s and courses needed to finish his senior year at Mississippi State! ( our baby boy set to graduate in December.) Time really does FLY!!!

  15. JennyJoT says:

    What a precious post. And what a great reminder that our words DO matter. I remember an unkind comment that I made to a girl in SIXTH GRADE, and it still haunts me to this day. And I think it was Mark Twain who said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”
    I believe I’ll be trying to choose my words carefully today, Sophie. And by the way, YOU are a gift from God to your readers. Hope you have a fantabulous day today.

  16. Love this Sophie! Reminds me of my son. He’s out of college and on his own now. It goes fast!

  17. Chantelle says:

    Beautiful. Way to go Alex!! I got a little teary reading this.

  18. Your post was EXACTLY what I needed this morning. You make me laugh and you minister to my soul. Thank You Sophie !

  19. Sophie, Sophie, Sophie… one day I’m gonna hug your neck like a long lost cousin….and you’ll be thinking who on earth is this nut who won’t let go of me? Ha. YOUR WORDS TOUCH MY SOUL. You have the perfect timing to grip me until I’m teary-eyed, and then throw me off with a little laughter. THANK YOU for letting The Spirit use you to touch others! It really is a gift… and you use it well.

  20. Mariposa says:

    So sweet. I am in a puddle at my desk right now with the tenderness of this and such encouragement this morning. So happy for your little (big) guy.

  21. Donna H. says:

    Gorgeous post today! I’m so inspired to be intentional about speaking life and hope. Thank you Miss Sophie.

  22. I have a fifth grader, too. He would be so moved by this experience and I’m so glad you shared. It helps me be aware of the message I’m communicating, too!

  23. Natalie N. says:

    Well. I nearly broke down and bawled … at my desk! Words, man. They mean things. Thank you for this. Also, could you consider tagging such posts with an Ugly Cry Alert? Sort of like a spoiler alert, but this one would be so I know to grab tissue!

  24. Such a sweet story. Wise teacher. We need more encouraging words in our lives.

  25. TerriG says:

    I didn’t expect that sweet turn in your story. I’m actually sobbing right now. Love it so much!

  26. Stacey says:

    Oh my. Tears.

  27. Such a beautiful post – it does make you think. As a matter of fact, we did this in high school (David probably remembers) in Mrs Panek’s class. I still have those words. While I didn’t post them on my wall, I posted them in my heart and my hope chest! So proud that he is so insightful even as a 5th grader.

    PS – love that the big word she highlighted is “Hilarious” – how could he not be with his parental DNA?!

  28. Nanette R. says:

    I read this post yesterday and I had to come back and report that thanks to you, I knew the answer to an answer at the weekly trivia game at a local Mexican restaurant! Thankfully, it was a team effort, since the question listed five different men’s names and we had to answer the correct superhero that was each man’s alter-ego. I knew Peter Parker was Spiderman because I read your blog! Thank you for a fun read, even when you don’t give me answers to trivia questions!

  29. Sister says:

    My sweet boy, Alex.

    Mike Reid (“I Can’t Make You Love Me”) wrote a killer song called “Words Last Forever” that speaks right to my very core. I hope it gets cut by the right artist…and soon. It’s a song that everybody needs to hear…because words do last forever.

  30. Callie says:

    Oh how I love this. I see my precious (almost) 5 year old girl and dread the day that Doc McStuffins and Princesses leave our house, and that space is filled with something else. I can only hope it is something as treasured and valuable as this!

  31. Missy Bush says:

    I missed this the day your posted it, but it was because I needed it today. The love that came through this post was what I needed to pass on as I start my day, not the negative feelings that were filling my head. In other words, I needed an attitude adjustment and love can do that quicker than anything else. Thank you.


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