As I’ve mentioned before in a post, our family is currently on an endeavor to watch all the Star Wars movies. Much like I did when I was their age, the boys have absolutely fallen in love with that amazing galaxy George Lucas created, and to my delight, nearly everything we talk about these days is Star Wars related. Joey, who often has a connection to the dark side of the force and all other things “bad guy” related (I’m concerned about this, but I figure if we keep showering him with love, he won’t stray too far from the light), has chosen to be Darth Vader for Halloween. Like the galactic ruler he is, Joe has convinced his brother Tommy to be a Stormtrooper and funnily enough has found ways to give countless orders to his older sibling. He’s a mastermind, and truth be told, my youngest boy makes the perfect Vader. He has easily mastered the robotic breathing, raspy talking, and even the infamous Vader Force Choke. Watching him do so makes me wonder if he has a job in acting someday. Joey and Tommy are regularly seen marching throughout the house in their costumes looking for “Rebel Scum.” Teddy, bless his peaceful heart, is the only one who consistently identifies as a good guy. There are two heroes Teddy absolutely adores, and in his eyes, either one of them will do the trick when trying to stop his villainous, younger brothers. If he’s not Luke Skywalker masterfully wielding his lightsaber, he is Harry Potter casting freezing spells to stop them in their tracks.
These characters are his favorite, and I couldn’t be happier that he has fallen in love with these two fictional worlds. Additionally, while the villains of the house like to play as the bad guys every now and then, they no doubt love the character Luke Skywalker as well. The hope, bravery, and love Luke demonstrated throughout his journey in those original three films has helped show my kids what it means to be a hero. Now, it might seem like I’m exaggerating, and I can see how it comes off as such. Listen, I get that I’m geeking out right now and letting my nerd flag fly, but hear me out. The thing is, that even though these characters and their stories are fiction, they without question are helping shape my boys into the men I’d like them to become when they’re older.
As a matter of fact, a lot of who I am today as a person is obviously because of the people who helped raise me, but the stories I read as a kid and the movies I saw molded my morals and belief system as well. Isn’t that one of the reasons why stories exist after all? When I was tempted to give up on friends who had done something wrong to me, I’m sure the story of Luke not giving up on his father may have reminded me that sometimes people are worth a second shot. I’m certain that a Superman comic at one point taught me that it’s okay to stick up for yourself and others, but stooping to the level of the “bad guy” is never the right answer. And as lame as it sounds, I’m sure that reading the story of a parentless Harry Potter helped reiterate to me the love of family. Stories can help define us, and I can see it happening with my boys. They like to emulate the characters they see and read about, and while I joke that Joey has the occasional dark leanings, I am glad to report he mostly reenacts heroic tales more than anything else.
For this reason, I was really hesitant to show them the newest Star Wars trilogy, and specifically, The Last Jedi. Please let me preface the rest of this post before I continue. I ask that you understand I am not trying to step on anybody’s toes and bash a movie you might really like, but rather, I am sharing a personal experience I had with my boys and this movie. I have friends who love this movie, and I also have friends, like me, who very much dislike it. I am writing this post not as a means to vent out my distaste for the movie (Alright, maybe just a little bit), but largely because watching it with Teddy, Tommy, and Joey presented me with a parenting first and a difficult challenge I wasn’t expecting. If you loved the movie, that’s awesome. That’s another reason I enjoy movies and stories so much. They mean different things to so many different people, and as a result, we can learn from each other by having good, healthy debates.
SPOILER ALERT: The rest of this post will talk about the movie. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you come back and read the rest of this post after you’ve watched it.
For those of you who haven’t seen The Last Jedi and don’t care to, but still want to read this post, I have to give some quick information for this to all makes sense. In the movie, we meet our hero, Luke again, and while he once stood for hope and bravery, he no longer exudes these Jedi beliefs. He is bitter, crude, and void of any positivity. He refuses to train the main character of the story, Rey, and as the story progresses, we learn he once had a vision his nephew would stray to the dark side of the force. Naturally, without even having a conversation with his young nephew, Ben Solo, he tries to murder him in his sleep. Murder him in his sleep! Yes, I wrote that correctly. In the original trilogy, Luke Skywalker refused to give up on his father, Darth Vader, and his hope of bringing the lost Jedi back to the light was the very reason Darth Vader found the light side again. It was an impossible task, but Luke and his story showed us that nothing is impossible when concerning hope and love. Everything my boys fell in love with regarding their favorite hero has been completely written off in The Last Jedi. Unfortunately, there is never any sort of redemption for this character in the movie. I can go on and on about the injustices done to a character who once refused to give up hope, but this isn’t a movie review. This is a parenting blog, and while it does in fact seem like a movie review, this is more about how we handle situations when our kids’ expectations are shattered.
For the first time as a parent, I had to have a conversation with my boys about the notion of people letting us down. Teddy and Tommy were absolutely wrecked when they watched this movie. I was sure not to let my feelings on the matter show in any way, and my wife, smart as she is, encouraged me to let them make their own decision about it. After the viewing, Tommy was on the verge of tears. He was more upset that Luke died at the end, and he couldn’t quite understand the character’s change. “Why is he so mean, Daddy? That’s not Luke. Is it?” Teddy, at eight-years-old, who is really good at reading and comprehending stories, had a much more interesting reaction- the same reaction so many others have had to this movie.
“Dad, it doesn’t make sense.” He puzzledly looked at me. “He saved his dad. He saved the worst person in the whole galaxy. Why did he want to kill Kylo Ren?” This wasn’t prompted, and if I’m being honest, I’m super excited and proud he had the same thoughts as me. Joey, on the other hand, didn’t seem to care either way about Luke’s downfall, but he did keep running around the house laughing at the alien “pickles” part of the movie. Pickle is how Joey says the word nipple, and yes, there is a part of the movie where Luke is awkwardly milking an alien- that alien has somewhat of a humanoid form. It is hands down the most uncomfortable scene in movie history for me, and apparently Joey thought it was absolutely hilarious. It serves no purpose other than to demean the character even further.
Regardless of the galactic let down we just watched, I am really proud of what happened next. It’s not what I really wanted to discuss, but it’s what I think a good parent should do in a situation such as this one. I’ll be candid. I hate the movie and think it is garbage, and that’s all I really wanted to tell my sons. However, as bad as I think the movie is, it did succeed in setting up a pretty awesome parenting moment for me. Okay, I admit I am somewhat using this post to let go of some frustration I have towards Star Wars at the moment because of its most recent movies, but that being said, it’s not what this blog entry is really about. Rather, this post is about the idea of coaching our kids through the reality of life. It’s the notion that sometimes certain things or even people might let us down. I get that this might seem overdramatic, but we talked a lot about how sometimes our expectations can be too high and that nobody is perfect in life. Luke certainly was not perfect by any means in this latest story. I guess in the past he once represented the idea that hope should never fade, but now, maybe he is the true embodiment of humanity’s imperfection. At least that’s what I am selling to the boys right now. It was a good conversation. Teddy made comparisons to himself and talked about how he’s not perfect to his brother’s all the time, but he tries to be. We talked about how even though he tells Tommy and Joey they’re annoying no less than eighty times a day, Mom and Dad understand he does loves them. I even admitted some of my imperfections to the boys, and I think they really appreciated that even their dad wasn’t perfect by any means. Even more than that, I think they liked that I wasn’t afraid to show them what I thought I needed to work on as a person. Tommy brought up that he’s not perfect either and that his room shouldn’t have to be perfect all the time too. A nice try, but no, Tom. That needs to be perfect.
I think they understood our talk, and again, while I hate that Luke no longer represents what he once did for me and for the boys, I guess I appreciate that we got to talk about flaws. If there’s one thing I don’t want my kids growing up thinking, it’s that they have to be perfect. I want them to be able to make mistakes and learn from them. Most importantly, I want them to know they can talk to me about those mistakes and trust that I will be there to help them through it. Who knows, maybe that’s what Luke is going through. Maybe he will overcome those mistakes as a force ghost (it’s a thing) in the last installment of the newest trilogy. I don’t have a ton of hope for The Rise of Skywalker (probably because Star Wars ruined my most hopeful character), but you never know. See what happens when you ruin incessantly hopeful characters? We lose hope ourselves! Maybe by the end of this year, after the movie releases, we can talk again about imperfection, mistakes, fear and how Luke overcame those obstacles to regain hope. This is the direction I hope they go in, and if not, I think I’ll just let the boys know that sometimes people simply stink at writing stories.
Can you think of a time your kids were let down by something or somebody? How did you handle the situation? How did you help them through it? It’s not an easy thing to talk about because we try our best to shield our kids from pain, but it’s a part of life, right?