Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Jedi, Like His Father Before Him

There comes a time in a man's life where he starts seriously thinking about the future. He ceases to think only about his own wants and needs, and begins to consider more important things. Instead of worrying about trivial matters, like which Star Wars movie he's going to watch that night, he shifts his focus to other people. I remember this happening to me when I was in college. I asked myself a very important question: "How am I going to introduce Star Wars to my kids?" You laugh, but there are a myriad of issues to consider there. At what age is your youngling old enough to watch the films? Which film do you start with? Do you go in order of release, starting with the original? Or in chronological order, starting with The Phantom Menace? (When I was in college, there were only two trilogies to think about, but now there is a new - and incomplete - trilogy being made, and stand-alone films coming out in between the saga films.) What if you're too forceful (no pun intended) about it, and your kids shy away from all things Star Wars? Or what if - what if - they just don't like it?

Okay, I'll admit my opening paragraph is a little over the top. There are more important things to me than passing Star Wars down to my kids. But Star Wars has been a significant force (ahem) in my life. For more on that, you can read one of my first posts on this blog, My Star Wars Fandom. So being able to share this with my kids was something I was very excited about. If you ask my 3-year-old son Tim what is favorite movie is, he'll say Star Wars, so I must have done something right.

Those Preliminary Questions
The two obvious options for which order to show the films were either by order of release date (4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3), or in chronological order (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). The issue with showing them in chronological order is that you ruin the epic reveal of Darth Vader being Luke's father (spoiler alert?). And if you go in order of release date, you end on a bit of downer (Anakin becoming Darth Vader). One creative way around this is called the "Machete Order." You show A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back (thus preserving the "I am your father" moment), and then flash back to Episodes I, II, and III (technically the Machete Order just skips Episode I, but I wasn't going to omit any movies, except the Holiday Special).

But when I thought back to how I was exposed to Star Wars, the answer became obvious. I just grew up knowing Star Wars. We had copies of the movie on VHS, taped from some time they had aired on TV. I don't actually remember the first time I saw each movie, so as far as I know, I never really experienced the plot twist in Empire. And I turned out okay, right? So really, it didn't matter what order I showed the movies in. I wasn't going to wait until my child was old enough to "fully appreciate" everything, because that would mean depriving him of Star Wars until he was "ready."

While it might be important which order you show the Star Wars films to an adult who has never seen them, it doesn't really matter - to me, anyway - what order you show them to your children. So I didn't worry about the order.

How Tim Became a Star Wars Fan
When my firstborn son Timothy was a baby, Star Wars was all around. (That's a side effect of having a Geeky Catholic Dad.) Sometimes Jess and I would watch Star Wars movies while holding him, but of course he was too young to have any idea what was going on. I also remember nights where we were trying to get Tim to start going to bed earlier, and I would walk around with him in a dim room, trying to minimize sensory inputs. As I walked with him, I decided I should tell him stories. I started telling the first story I could think of. "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." I proceeded to narrate the events of A New Hope. Each night I'd continue where I left off, and when I finished that movie, I'd tell the story of each of the other movies.

As Tim got older, and was able to start recognizing shapes, letters, etc., I taught him the names of some of the characters in the Star Wars books and memorabilia we had around the house. We had books like Darth Vader & Son - an illustrated book depicting Darth Vader and a 3-year-old Luke Skywalker in various father-son situations - and Star Wars 123.

Eventually, he got old enough to watch entire episodes of kids shows without losing interest. So - perhaps too hastily - I started asking from time to time if he wanted to watch Star Wars. He'd say, "No, I want to watch Daniel Tiger." Once or twice, when he had a show on the TV, but was off playing with toys, I would try switching it to a Star Wars movie. Maybe if he just saw it on the TV, it would capture his interest. Alas, he would invariably turn back to the TV right away and tell me to switch it back.

In May of 2016, the song "Jabba Flow" was released for digital download. (That's the song - written by Hamilton's and Moana's Lin-Manuel Miranda - that played in Maz's castle in The Force Awakens.) I started playing it in the car, including times that I was driving Tim around. The song has alien words like "No bata tu tu, muni muni." In Tim's head, that translated to "Da da doo honey honey." Which he started singing, everywhere. Once, he walked into a display shower at Menards, closed the door, and jumped up and down, singing/shouting, "Da da doo honey hooooney! Da da doo honey hooooney!" Almost every time we drove somewhere, he'd request the "honey honey song."

I finally had my hook. I pulled up my digital copy of The Force Awakens on my phone, and asked Tim if he wanted to watch the movie that the "honey honey song" came from. But then I realized that the movie started with Storm Troopers torching a village, and that this was maybe not a great movie for a young child.

I waited a few months before asking again if he wanted to watch Star Wars. But kids have this way of deciding they don't like something and sticking to that (like when a toddler decides he doesn't like broccoli, without ever having tried it).

So when Christmas came, and Tim got a couple of Star Wars toys (a few action figures and a pair of toy lightsabers), I decided to take a different approach. When I was doing his bedtime, I gave him a special treat. After I read him the customary two books of his choosing, I told him I could tell him the story of Luke Skywalker (I avoided calling it Star Wars so he wouldn't have that knee-jerk reaction against it). I narrated the beginning of A New Hope, and told him I could continue the story another night if he wanted to. And sure enough, the next night, he asked for "more Luke Skywalker story." I'm sure part of it was that he got one more thing before bed, but he also started to get invested in the story. He'd ask questions about who characters were, and why they were doing what they were doing.

A week later, I had finished A New Hope and was telling "Luke Skywalker Episode V" before bed each night. One day I asked if he wanted to see Luke Skywalker on the TV, and he said yes. He watched part of A New Hope, and loved it. He was even worried about R2-D2 when the Jawas stunned him with their ion blasters. (I reassured him that R2 was just sleeping.) We made it through most of the movie that way, a few scenes a day. Then some days he'd ask for different "episodes," and then change his mind.

At this point, he was hooked. He was a lot more interested in the other Star Wars stuff we had in the house, and he'd even play Star Wars. One time when Obi-Wan and Darth Vader were dueling on the screen, Tim grabbed the lightsabers, handed me the red one, and said, "Let's lightsaber fight, Daddy." Another day, as we were getting ready for bed, he announced, "The walls are closing in! Shut down all the garbage mashers!" He started gravitating towards the Star Wars books when we were choosing books for bedtime.

We ended up watching the Maz's castle scene a lot, because it had the "honey honey" song, and he now really made the connection that it was Star Wars. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that he'd absorbed a lot of details from that scene. Out of the blue one day, he looked at me and - in his best Maz Kanata voice - shouted, "Haaaaan Solo!" Of course, I responded in Han's voice, "Hey Maz!" Tim asked why I said that, and I responded that that's what Han said next. So Tim did it again. "Haaaaan Solo!" "Hey Maz," I responded once more. "Where's my boyfriend?" Tim asked. I couldn't believe he had remembered that line! "Chewie's working on the Falcon." Tim surprised me even more by answering, "I like that." (Apparently he couldn't hear Maz saying "Wookiee" at the end of that line. Still, pretty impressive.)

A few months ago, Tim wanted to play outside at Jess's parents house. I went out with him, and saw he'd found the water guns. I said we could pretend we were shooting Storm Troopers. He told me I could be Han Solo, and he would be Luke Skywalker. So we shot down wave after wave of imaginary Storm Troopers coming around the side of the house. When I ran out of water, I ducked down by the hose to refill my water gun. Tim called to me, "Hurry, Daddy, there's more --- I mean, Hurry Han Solo, there's more coming!"

In His Own Words
You don't have to just take my word for how big of a Star Wars fan Tim is. One evening, when we were playing in the basement, and Tim had asked me to put a Star Wars movie in the Blu Ray player, I conducted a short interview with him.

Me: Hey, Tim. Can I ask you some questions?
Tim: What do you want to ask?
Me: I'm gonna ask you some questions for my blog. Do you know what a blog is?
Tim: What is it?
Me: A blog is something you write on the internet. Did you know Daddy had a blog?
Tim: Why?
Me: I write about things that I like.
Tim: Like what, Daddy?
Me: Like Star Wars, and comics, and games, and movies, and Church, and Jesus --
Tim [cutting in]: And Leia?
Me: -- And you and Charlie.
Tim: But what's your favorite character in Star Wars Episode IV, Daddy? Luke?
Me: Luke, yep. But I'm gonna ask *you* some questions. What's your favorite movie?
Tim: Um, Star Wars.
Me: Which Star Wars is your favorite one?
Tim: Um, Episode IV.
[I like how he's saying "um" before each of his responses, like he's really thinking about it to make sure he gives the best answer he can.]
Me: And who's your favorite character in Star Wars?
Tim: Um, Leia.
Me: And what do you like about Leia?
Tim: Um, I don't know.
Me: What's your favorite part of the movie?
Tim: The medal part where they're putting them on Luke and Han. That's my favorite part.
[He's referring to the medal ceremony at the end of A New Hope.]
Me: What do you like about Star Wars?
Tim: Um... (pause) Leia.
Me: Why do you like Star Wars so much?
Tim: Um, just because. I just want to watch it.
Me: How many times have you watched Star Wars?
Tim: Um, I think 4 times. [definitely more than 4 times...]
Me: Do you want to watch Star Wars right now?
Tim: No, I just want to watch the pictures that go over and over and over, and show parts of the movie. [He's referring to the title menu on the A New Hope Blu Ray, which has been playing in the background since before I started the interview.]

Conclusion

Thanks for reading! If you like my blog, and you'd like to receive emails each time I upload a new post, you can enter your email address below. Or, you can "Like" or "Follow" GCD's Facebook page here. Find me on Twitter here. How do you share Star Wars (or other geeky things) with your kids? If you want to express an opinion, ask a question, or give feedback about this post or others, feel free to leave a comment below, or email me at geekycatholicdad@gmail.com.

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