May The Forest Be With You

One of the things you do when you become a dad is immediately think of the things you’re going to do with your kids. You want them to love the things that you love. It’s a pipe dream, of course. You hope, but it usually doesn’t turn out the way you planned it. I never had a desire to stand for hours watching commuter trains go by, but my boys love it, so now it’s something special for me. If we had a girl, I imagine Amy dreaming of that first time seeing the Nutcracker like she did when she was a young girl, or their first mani-pedi together. Not that you can’t do that with boys. For me, as I watched Alex (and then Ryan) being born, I was already planning out the first time they would watch Star Wars. I imagined sitting them down on a long holiday weekend, putting in A New Hope and taking them on the same journey I went on so many years ago (by the way, you need to watch them in machete order which is 4,5,2,3,6 – skip Phantom Menace). But….as I mentioned, it never turns out that way. I grew up with Star Wars. It was a big part of my life, almost as much as baseball. I was five when A New Hope came out in 1977. I kind of remember being at a theater in New York City. I remember, a few years later, standing outside a theater in New Jersey crying because they were sold out for The Empire Strikes Back (no fandango back then!). But most of all, I remember playing with my action figures. I had an original Millennium Falcon, an AT-AT, I had it all. I remember driving all the way to Woodbridge Mall in New Jersey with my mom to the special toy store (Heroes World?) trying to get the Yoda action figure. I can’t recall how many times we went just to see if they had it, but my mom probably does. All of it was so special to me. As an adult, I often laced my work presentations or everyday conversations with Star Wars references – “You must unlearn what you have learned” was a favorite of mine. Anyway…I had big plans for Alex.  

Breakfast lighter duel.

Breakfast lightsaber duel.

  The more you start thinking about when to show your kids Star Wars, the more you have to really consider if your kid is ready. I myself am a pretty lenient parent when it comes to certain things like sugar intake and iPad time. But, the world has way too many guns in it and Amy and I have tried to shield Alex from violence, especially gun violence (another pipe dream by the way – the minute a 4-year hits preschool, it’s all shooting games). Star Wars is many things…one of those things is really violent. Just look at the new The Force Awakens poster and you’ll see what I mean; every character has some type of weapon. When I thought about Star Wars now, I realized that the majority of the movies involve blasters, explosions and sword fights. And it’s scary too. When I was 8 years old and saw The Empire Strikes Back for the first time, some of the scenes on Dagobah with Yoda scared the crap out of me. So while I was desperate to show Alex the Star Wars movies, my bigger fear wasn’t that he would be scared. It was that he wouldn’t like it. I would rather him not see it than not like it. Well…a funny thing happened on the way to Tatooine. The boys at school love Star Wars. That’s all they talk about. My first hint was Alex wanting to be Darth Vader for Halloween. He started naming some characters, ones that I had never introduced to him. It was beginning… I decided to show him the first scene of Star Wars. It’s iconic. Darth Vader’s star destroyer captures Princess Leia’s ship and we see Leia give R2-D2 the secret plans for the Death Star. It’s also super violent with the rebels getting shot by Storm Troopers and everyone falling to their deaths. No blood, but still a whole hell of a lot of shooting. I guess I just never truly realized. About three minutes in I can tell Alex is scared and he says, “I don’t ever want to see that again.” I look up at Amy and my eyes say everything, I just ruined Star Wars for my boy. And then I did something that goes against everything I stand for as a Star Wars fan. I downloaded the movie to Alex’s iPad and told him he could watch scenes out of order – that’s how he watches movies that he has already seen. I figured he could watch some of the cool scenes and skip ones he didn’t like – and at the same time I really wasn’t ruining the experience because he wasn’t capturing the full story. It worked. And then came the questions…lots of them. I could list them all, which was one of my original ideas for this blog, but the guys at How to Be A Dad did a ridiculously awesome video you may want to check out instead. There were some great one-liners, though, like “why did he say may the forest be with you?” or “search your feet?” Actually he said “search your feelings, Alex.” (side note: Did Obi-Wan mumble?) For Alex, the questions weren’t just about the movie itself, but some of the dialogue too –-now I can completely justify watching at bedtime because we’re working on vocabulary! Anyway…I digress. Alex asks me about who is good, who is bad. Then he asks me again, and again, and again. We learn all the characters names. We learn who is a Jedi and who is a Sith. He asks about tie-fighters and X-wing fighters. And he asks me to imitate R2-D2…CONSTANTLY. We watch the run on the Death Star at the end of A New Hope so many times, I’ve lost count. A typical conversation goes like this… “Dad, is that Boba Fett, is he a good guy or a bad guy?” “He’s a bad guy. He’s a bounty hunter.” “Is he a Sith?” “No, Sith use the force, like Darth Vader or the Emperor” “Is he like IG-88?” “Wow…yes…exactly.” This has already been a great Christmas for me. I’ve been on eBay buying up action figures for him. We got him a really cool new X-wing fighter and an R2-D2 lunch box. Amy just rolls her eyes every time I say something like, “But, but…you can’t have an R2-D2 action figure and not C-3PO.” I’m sure she realizes too that I’m keeping at least 50% of the stuff I buy for myself. The other day, Alex saw a new Captain Phasma stormtrooper action figure I had just bought and thought it was for him. Ha! Not a chance kid.

My original Star Wars figures now being destroyed by the boys.

My original Star Wars figures now being destroyed by the boys.

But mostly it’s been great because it’s another thing we get to do together. I’ve realized that the greatest gift of Star Wars isn’t the actual movies themselves, but the time together and seeing his eyes light up at the wonder of it all. I love watching his imagination work just like it did for me more than 30 years ago. And he’s gotten over that first scene…he watches it all the time now narrating it for me. Is Princess Leia dead daddy? Nope. They set their blasters to stun. What’s stun? Stun is… The other night, Amy was putting Ryan’s pajamas on as I stood by. Ryan was breathing funny. Really deep breaths.   I got nervous for a second until I thought I knew what he was doing. “What are you doing, Ryan?” I asked. “Darth Vader,” our two-year old replied. There is another.           .

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