I find it endlessly fascinating that Bruce Wayne, known in DC as the crabbiest, grumpiest, darkest character is (when written well) a very open and sympathetic person who mentors and parents a large number of children. Meanwhile, Clark Kent, the eternal boy scout who is cheery and kind and wonderful has a known history of being uncomfortable and even rude children who look to him as a mentor. I love that dichotomy and, more importantly, I love how such paradoxes actually really suit their characters.
Because the best way to Bruce Wayne is damaged, every single action he has taken is a result of grief and guilt and an inability to move past his tragedy. He acknowledges he is not normal, that he can’t think or feel in a normal, healthy capacity so he uses his trauma to help himself heal and maybe even better his city while he’s at it. But likewise, he understands sorrow and tragedy in others and is very empathetic to the plights of children in similar situations. He is dark and not very good with emotion but he does understand what grief can do to a person and when he sees children suffering, his big heart compels him to help out in anyway he can. He’s not always the best at it and a lot of times he becomes nervous over how attached he becomes to his children/partners and tries to distance himself. But that doesn’t change the fact that his initial reaction to sadness is to try and prevent them from going through what he did because he understands and is honestly upset by their plight.
Clark, on the other hand, had a picturesque Norman Rockwell childhood just with the occasional freak-outs about his ancestry and troubles with his powers. But having grown up in such an idyllic place where he didn’t have to suffer too much and had very open and accepting parents, he becomes a bit sheltered. Ma and Pa (rightfully so) tell Clark that his life is his own and he is entitled to his own happiness. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’ve seen people that go through their whole lives without conflict who react poorly when faced with change they were not prepared for. Superman is, of course, kind and generous and loving because he’s a genuinely good person and 9/10 his kindness doesn’t affect him and how he views his life. So when Kon comes along and even people talk about discovering Captain Marvel’s civilian identity, Clark responds negatively or at least, not in the open manner we would expect.
Because Clark is still caught up with his own life and his own desires that the thought of changing that up for these children just doesn’t occur to him. You can call it selfishness, cause it is, but it’s also human nature which is fascinating coming from an alien immigrant. Plus I imagine Clark has some rather traditional values having grown up in rural Kansas, he could barely handling finding out he was an alien much less properly deal with a sassy teenage clone of himself via Lex Luthor and a magic boy who can transform into an adult. I can see Clark being, well, a bit freaked out by all that. But this is a pattern we see over and over again with Clark dealing with children. He fares much better when a) he chose to have this child enter his life and isn’t feeling like he’s being forced and b) the child was younger and acquired through more normal means.
Now this isn’t a criticism on Clark, in fact, while I may curse about his treatment of Superboy and cry over the fact that he didn’t adopt Billy straight away, I love this complexity. I don’t like it when my characters are perfect, when they always do the right the thing and behave in a blameless matter all the time. It’s boring frankly. But I like seeing consistent character traits, good or bad that make sense when it comes to their behavior and actions. Like, I can easily see why the Dark Knight is a good father figure while the Man of Steel, the golden boy, is awkward and unhappy with these children in his life. Of course we see that Bruce fucks up with his kids as much as he helps them and Clark gets over his pettiness and learns to be a better mentor but we still have these initial reactions which say a lot about their feelings. DC is capable of building these interesting, complex characters and they never utilize them. They think making everything dark and grim makes things more interesting but really, if they just extrapolate the wealth of development and character they’ve already built, they could satisfy at least this reader a lot more.