Sean Swaby has some advice for those days when your kids think you may be Darth Vader
“Do you know how Darth Vader got his name?” I recently asked my kids. Neither of them knew.
“His name was not always ‘Darth Vader.’” I said, “That name was actually given to him by his family. When his parents would ask him to do the laundry, take out the garbage, do his homework, play piano he would say, ‘I’ll do it later.’ ”
I watch to make sure my kids are listening. I am on fire.
“In fact, he said ‘Later’ so often that his family nicknamed him ‘Darth Later.’ They hoped the nickname would motivate him to get his stuff done.”
“His parents kept after him. They used the name Darth Later over and over and over, until they became irritated. Then they became angry and the dark side of the Force took over his parents and their heart’s turned dark. That is when they began using the name, “Darth Vader.”
I asked my then 14 and 11 year old, “Do you know what this means?” They are putty in my parenting hands.
“The story is teaching you to do what mom and dad ask right away. That way you won’t become like Darth Vader.”
Parenting and the dark side
Do you want to know what my 14 year old said to that brilliant story? “I like Darth Vader. He has cool powers like lightening bolts from his fingers and a sword that can cut people in half.”
He obviously missed the point.
Parenting is hard work. In fact it is stupidly hard sometimes. Well, truth time, I am stupidly hard-headed sometimes. That is probably what makes parenting so hard. Parenting may not the path to happiness, but it can be incredibly meaningful.
One of my early jobs was teaching parent education. I taught the groups for a few years before I had children of my own. I never attempted to tell people how to parent their kids. I talked about life, about their hopes and dreams, and about things that made us both laugh. I shared a few things that I had learned growing up that seemed to work, and I was willing to learn from a lot of people. My experience went pretty well.
Then my wife and I had our own children. That was when I stopped teaching about parenting. It’s because in parenting, the stakes feel so high with every decision. You can over analyze your decisions and worry a lot about things.
If we watched too much TV, I worried their brains would become like butter. We avoided sugar, caffeine, nitrates, processed foods, Heavy Metal music and Prozac. But even with all of this, I still made more than my share of mistakes. I was too hard on myself and at times, all that I could see was my inner Darth Vader.
Three things you can do with your inner Darth Vader
Some days I can be a little like Darth Vader. I procrastinate, I have lightening bolts that shoot from my fingers and I breathe very loudly. No matter what I do, I radiate a force that is not positive and definitely not helpful. Thankfully those days are infrequent.
So I wonder, what’s the secret to this parenting thing? In my weaker moments, I imagine that there is a secret parenting habit that I missed. I have searched for the secret, read a lot of parenting books and stalked other parents to see if I can figure it out.
Do you want to know what I have learned?
- If it works, do more of it. Most parents do whatever work for them. The key to being a good parent is letting go and not worrying about doing it the right way. There is no rule book on parenting and most of the parenting experts disagree on things. What works? You and I need to understand our strengths and our weaknesses.
- Practice the Serenity Prayer. The Serenity Prayer reminds us that change begins with acceptance. Accepting our own Darth Vader moments is a start. I’ll bet that you are not a Vader every day. Be honest when you have a tough day, and acknowledge that you are not Vader all of the time.
- Exercise your Vader. If you are having a Vader day, take a vitamin or go for a long walk or something. Go watch the movie again and see what happens to Vader at the end. Not pretty, so better go for a run.
Keep it Real
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