When my wife and I decided to start a family shortly after getting married, one of the things that got me the most excited was the prospect of passing down my love of certain things to my future children. Things that I had loved growing up that I would be able to show them and we could enjoy together. Unfortunately many of those things that I loved don’t hold up so well 30 years later (I won’t hold my breath for my kids to be listening to Skid Row and binge watching all four seasons of ALF). But some of them do stand the test of time, like Star Wars.
Eight years into fatherhood though and my two daughters have gravitated more towards the kinds of things that my wife enjoyed as a kid. They watch The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. They play with Barbie and Care Bears. And they dress up in fancy dresses and put on makeup. These are all absolutely fun activities and I’ve been known to attend a tea party or two in a feather boa, but it’s not exactly what I had envisioned almost a decade ago when I first started dreaming of parenthood.
Recently though an interesting thing happened as Star Wars: The Force Awakens neared it’s release. My oldest girl suddenly started showing an interest in Star Wars. She actually wanted to go see the new movie! Of course this was music to my ears and I immediately put plans into motion to catch her up on the nearly 40 years of mythology. First things first: screw the prequels. They have their moments and maybe someday she’ll want to watch them, but I’ll be damned if that’s the first exposure she has to this universe. So we started in the same way that I did so many years ago, with A New Hope. Sadly, things got off to a bit of a rocky start and she wasn’t exactly blown away by her introduction to Luke, Han and Leia. It’s hard to blame her though, compared to the visual effects of what she’s used to seeing on television, Episode IV looks more like a high school play than a blockbuster sci-fi epic.
Thankfully the characters and the story were interesting enough to her that she wanted to keep going, so we moved on to The Empire Strikes Back. And that’s when it happened. That’s when it clicked. She was thrilled by the battle of Hoth, she hid under the blanket to escape the creatures of Dagobah and she laughed when Yoda whacked R2-D2 with his cane. And then at the end…. the big reveal. I was watching her face more than I was watching the movie so I could see her reaction, and it was just as awesome as I’d hoped. When she heard those words, “Luke, I am your father.” she let out a gasp. She looked at me, then back at the TV, then back at me. “What? Why? He’s his dad? Why would he do that to his son?” She was totally shocked. I don’t remember my reaction when I first saw Empire and it’s one of those pop culture moments that everybody knows by now, so to see her hear those words for the first time and see the look on her face was priceless.
After the movie ended I knew that she was hooked. She immediately wanted to finish the trilogy and see how it all ended. And she loved Return of the Jedi just as much as she did Empire (what kid doesn’t like Ewoks?). After watching Jedi she just HAD to have a Star Wars themed birthday party complete with a homemade Star Wars cake and the John Williams soundtrack as background music. And now she’s begging me to take her to see The Force Awakens and I can’t wait to see how she reacts to the adventures of Rey, Finn, BB-8 and Poe. It’ll be amazing to get to experience this new trilogy together with her for the first time.
We don’t get to choose the things that our children will like or dislike when they’re growing up and that’s perfectly okay. I will gladly help dress her American Girl doll and read her bedtime stories about Angelina Ballerina. Those are the things that she loves and I’ll love them along with her. But there is something special about finding that common interest that the two of you can bond over. Something you can both get excited about together. I can’t wait to show her all of the amazing stories and characters that exist in the Star Wars universe.
Except maybe the prequels. Man, those prequels suck.