Star Wars helps helicopter father teach his son that fitting in is a battle of oneself
There was the time of course when Myles had the friend over who wanted to build a vast city across our living room, and Myles suggested it would be cool if they also created a parade full of circus performers to march down Main Street and the kid looked at him like he was crazy.
There was also the time that some other kid from theater class said he would come over so they could run their lines, but despite Myles repeated efforts to rehearse, the kid only wanted to play Wii Resort, repeatedly, and for the entire time he was visiting.
Both of these play dates ended in tears, and I could tell you that I tried to completely ignore these exchanges, or that I thought Myles should toughen up, but that would not be true. I suffered with him, sitting there for every excruciating moment, unable to leave the room, or even fully give him the room to crash and burn on his own.
I believe the question that might come next is, “So do you think it may be possible that you are a helicopter parent?”
To which I say that it’s very possible, yes, likely, and not just because my mom thinks so, I think so as well. My generation of parents is much too involved because our parents were so hands-off because their parents were so suffocating.
But it’s also about being a caring father, not over-involved, not under-involved, and though maybe not just right, not invasive either. Just caring.
Some of it is the feeling that he is different, awesome, and beautiful, but different; not yet fitting in, or finding his people, and my desire is to both protect him and let him know that it’s okay, it will serve him well, I understand what he’s going through and it’s something he’s got to get through now.
All of which can feel impossible, hence my efforts to try and make it better for him, or at least try to talk it through with him whether he wants to or not.
Hence my need to watch Star Wars with him, or more accurately, The Empire Strikes Back, though let’s begin with Star Wars.
And yes, somewhere my wife is grimacing.
Star Wars is a touchstone for me, even more so as a parent. It represents childhood. Watching it is one of my favorite memories, and yet as popular as it was, it also represents how I was different at one time before I molded myself into something else, something more conformist, and something that involved moving away from comic books and movies like Star Wars, instead choosing to focus on becoming a varsity athlete, getting high, and chasing popular girls.
And while I may have just outgrown whatever Star Wars had once meant to me, I wonder what I gave up along the way, and I find that I am having a battle with myself about who I am, was, and will be, all of which plays into being a parent as well.
For one, it’s me wanting my children to want to experience these movies because they meant so much to me and I want them to mean something to them, something that will allow us to connect in some fashion, but also because it might give them more insight into why I do the things I do, and maybe not now, but later, when they’re trying to figure out who I am, was, and what that means to who they are, and will be.
Most importantly though, I want them to understand, that they can be anything they want, that they can embrace this, and that being different is fine, if not now, eventually, but that it isn’t easy, it can be painful, even tortured, and while I would rather that they didn’t have to feel this way at all, there’s no way around it, not totally.
Which reminds me of Glee, and so maybe before we talk Star Wars any further, we can pause for a Glee moment.
Myles is a fan of Glee, a big fan, and he wants to know everything about Glee, the character’s back stories, their loves and hates, who’s dating who, and on and on. He got very excited when he learned there would be an episode dedicated to the music of Lady Gaga and then he watched the episode over breakfast the morning after it was shown. We can’t let him watch the show at night, it’s too stimulating before bedtime, and plus, we like to screen the episodes prior to his viewing them so we can avoid the overt sex, or sex-related, scenes.
Which may be yet another sign of just how helicopter we are. I assume that parents in France probably don’t worry about such things, right?
Either way he watched the show during breakfast, we talked about the show on the way to school and along the way I decided that Glee had presented me with the opportunity to talk about being different, and what that might mean to him.
“Look,” I say, “it’s really cool that Glee picked the music, and stylings, of Lady Gaga, and it makes sense that they would because she’s very popular, but that’s not the only reason they probably chose her.”
I continued on though, because Myles loves Broadway musicals and watching Hair Battle Spectacular, which I love about him, but it is different, and I of course want him to talk about this whether he is prepared to or not.
“So, yeah,” I continue, “another reason they chose the music of Lady Gaga is because she represents being different, and how it’s okay to be different than the norm, and that we can, and should, celebrate being different, or weird, because being different is awesome in all its own way. Does that make sense?”
Again, no response, well not initially, but then Myles speaks.
“So why do you think the split the season into two halves?” he asks.
“Really?” I say.
“So you’re not going to acknowledge what I said, huh?” I reply.
More nothing, so we instead talked about the recent emergence of the half-season in network television, and I vowed to do this better next time there was a chance to do so.
Which brings us to The Empire Strikes Back, not that everything doesn’t, right? And no, you don’t need to answer that, I know it does.
Myles, Noah and I watched Star Wars and they kept talking nonstop about watching The Empire Strikes Back and so when I saw a chance to borrow it from the library, I grabbed it. They were mostly engaged, Noah more so certainly, waiting, waiting, waiting for Yoda, and Myles watching, but not, constantly asking the kinds of questions he asks.
“When are they going to freeze Han Solo, that’s this one isn’t it? And does being frozen in carbon hurt? Also, do they know how much Boba Fett sounds like Boba Fat?”
Eventually, the training scenes between Luke and Yoda began, and they reach the part where Yoda encourages Luke to enter this tree which leads him to fight Darth Vader, or at least the appearance of Darth Vader.
It’s all in his head, but they do fight, and when Luke takes him out and removes his mask he sees his own face. The kids don’t really react to this, it’s like they see that kind of thing all the time. Which they don’t, right? Which is very annoying, but that’s on me, and I accept it, mostly, but at first, I’m feeling, and acting, like my dad, “did you see that, and how fucked-up it was,” but nothing, no reaction.
And then I think, this is a teachable moment, and it’s not that I plan them, they just happen, which I suppose is what every helicopter parent everywhere says to justify their behavior.
But there I am, so wrapped-up in the kids, especially Myles, who is my very own Jedi warrior, and who I believe like Luke Skywalker is at battle with himself, his destiny, his father, and who he will become.
I should note here, that it didn’t occur to me at that moment, that I might in fact be projecting my own personal battles onto Myles, the battles with my own past and who I am, how to parent, my own father’s parenting, and all that.
But not even Yoda is that self-aware, is he? And no, please don’t answer that either.
“Myles,” I say, “do you see how they’re trying to show that Luke Skywalker is in essence fighting himself, that he is conflict about who he is and who he might be?”
“Do you get that,” I say, “and does that speak to you in any way?”
Again, nothing, not at first, but then after a moment, Myles looks at me really seriously, and I’m waiting, and I’m wondering what profound thing he is going to say.
“So when do Luke and Princess Leia realize that even though they’ve been kissing they’re actually brother and sister?” he asks me.
“Do you don’t want to respond to my comment first,” I say, hoping, thinking that the scene must have had some kind of impact.
“No,” he says smiling, “when do they find out?”
“Soon,” I say. “It’s all coming soon.”
Which it is, all of it, not that I know exactly what’s coming soon, or what it will look like.
—Photo by Andres Rueda/Flickr