I was nine years old when Return of the Jedi hit the theaters. I remember sitting in a darkened movie theater on a hot summer day with a bucket of popcorn on my lap. As I watched the X-wing starfighters fly across the screen, I distinctly remember thinking that science fiction movies weren’t my thing. The Ewoks were cute, though.
Through my child-free years, I managed to avoid science fiction and superhero movies, favoring historical fiction and pretty much anything with Colin Firth as the lead. I had a strict “no supernatural beings” policy when it came to my movie choices. I had no way of knowing that the birth of my children would change everything.
The universe has a funny way of making you eat your words.
Both of my kids eat, sleep, and breathe science fiction and anything related to the supernatural. If there’s a vampire love story, my daughter sinks her teeth into it. If there’s a movie with men running around in tight suits trying to save the world, my son has seen it. And don’t get me started on the show Supernatural. (Though I will grudgingly admit I enjoyed Stranger Things, largely because of the 80s references.)
As my kids have grown into teens, I have noticed that there are times when I don’t have the language to “speak” to them. Sure, we have our inside jokes that can lighten a mood when one of them is being snippy but, as they have continued to delve into their love of science fiction, I started to feel I was at a loss when it came to suggesting movies for family nights.
As summer vacation approached, I devised a plan to attend “Marvel University.”
It’d be a Marvel movie marathon. I would watch all 22 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in their release order. But I was going to need some help from my teens to accomplish my goal. And a lot of tutoring. And extra credit in order to graduate on time.
When I first told them of my plan, my kids were astounded.
“But you hate superhero movies, Mom,” they said incredulously.
They weren’t wrong.
I explained to them I wanted to meet them in their world and see what they enjoyed about the characters and the plot lines. I wanted to connect with them by sharing in their interests.
Before I could say “Dr. Strange,” my kids were immediately on board. We watched the first movie in the MCU that evening. Seeing my teens giddy over the fact that their mother was about to go on this adventure with them made my heart swell.
And so, my Marvel University journey began.
We spent the entire summer watching the movies, often with buttery popcorn on our laps. My kids were more than patient when I would make them pause a movie to ask questions like, “What’s a tesseract again?” and my daughter still loves me even though I’m firmly #TeamCaptainAmerica, while she’s #TeamIronMan.
When we made it to End Game, the last movie in the MCU, my kids surprised me with a “graduation party.” They turned the grocery store upside down looking for snacks in the colors of the Infinity Stones and had the feast waiting for me in our special viewing spot. My eyes filled with tears when my son thanked me for sticking with my plan.
“I’ve loved every minute of these movies with you this summer, Mom,” he said.
I realized in that moment that you don’t have to wear an actual cape to be a superhero mom. Sometimes you just have to be willing to wear a Captain America T shirt while watching a Marvel movie.
As the closing credits rolled for End Game, I cried for a second time that day because the movie got me right in the feels.
And that’s an ending I didn’t see coming.
This post originally appeared on Your Teen for Parents.