few weeks ago my son and I had some dude-time. My wife and daughter had a weekend chalk-full of girl stuff… dance class, swim lessons, two birthday parties, I don’t remember what else. But the salient point is that my son and I had two entire afternoons to ourselves in the same weekend. On day one we did our typical father/son thing… comic book shop, root beer floats, gummy dinosaurs and “the snake park”. But faced with girl-less day #2 I found my usual bag of son-entertaining tricks expired and needing to be recharged. The weather wasn’t good enough to be excited about hitting the beach, and it wasn’t bad enough to justify staying indoors all day. It was time to get creative.
It should be said that my wife and I have discussed what the appropriate age is for exposing our children to certain movies. She/we agreed that there really wasn’t a compelling reason to expose them to adult imagery like pilots blowing up in a fiery death, gun-fighting, burning carcasses, political executions, chopping off limbs, oppressive governments… and whether or not Han shot first, until they were about 6 years old. But that afternoon I looked into the eyes of my little 3-year-old Jedi, after a full morning of lightsaber fighting, and an idea popped into my head.
I did some quick arithmetic. It turns out that that particular week my son was precisely 3 years, 5 months old – the same age I was when “Star Wars: A New Hope” first premiered at Grauman’s Chinese theater on Hollywood Blvd on Wednesday, My 25th 1977. I looked down at my little Jedi, who personally faced down Darth Maul (part 1 and part2) just a few months earlier, who had plenty of Star Wars toys in his bedroom, who knew the music and the names of all the characters despite never having seen the movies… I looked down at my little Jedi and made an executive decision: today was the day. It flew in the face of the agreement I made with my wife, but I was feeling a little defiant and in all honesty I believed in my heart that my son was ready. (It should also be noted that to this day my wife has no knowledge that this happened. My son is not the squealer that his sister is. With the publication of this post I have effective outed myself. If I don’t blog for a while after this at least you’ll know why. It was one of my worst husbanding moments. I deserve what ever is coming to me. I’m coping to it now to admit my guilt and come clean.) So I finally took the shrink-wrap off of the Star Wars Blu-Ray set I got for Christmas and my boy and I settled down under a blanket with our lightsabers and a big tub of microwave popcorn for his very first time watching “Star Wars: Episode IV, A New Hope” from beginning to end. (For anyone considering the same, know this: Episode IV comes first. It’s just good parenting)
For what it’s worth, the experience was awesome. For my part, the Blu-Ray experience was great (I’ve seen the movie so many millions of times I actually noticed the difference on Blu-Ray) For his part, he absolutely loved it. He had to run to his bedroom to pull out all his Star Wars toys to sit on the coffee table and watch the movie with us. And to my immeasurable delight, he made it through the entire movie – spellbound. It was a seminal moment in the relationship between a boy and his Dork Daddy. This was his first REAL Star Wars viewing. “I LOVED it Daddy! Can we watch it again?!” Success.
On some level I have always imagined sharing those movies with my kids, and it seemed to me that watching it all the way through for the very first time with my son required something special to commemorate the occasion. “You did, did you?” I said with a smile.
“Yeah!” he replied. As I watched him zooming around the living room, pretending to be an X-wing fighter on the trench-run it suddenly became very clear to me that now was the time for another seminal, special once-in-a-lifetime moment between father and son.
“Buddy, you wait right here. I need to go into the attic and get something”. My son is no stranger to the attic. He knows that’s where Daddy keeps all the *REALLY* cool stuff that Mommy won’t let him bring in the house. Last year when he got an AT-AT for successfully potty training, his Dork Daddy brought down from the attic HIS OWN AT-AT and an entire afternoon of awesomeness ensued. At the mention of the word “attic” my son’s eyes grew wide with anticipation. The possibilities were endless.
I returned from the attic with my hands behind my back. “Now son, I need to tell you something. These were mine when I was a little boy. I’ve kept them safe all these years, and now I want you to have them”. From behind my back I produced the very same Kenner X-wing fighter and TIE fighter I played with when I was collecting Star Wars action figures as a boy. They were profoundly loved in their day, so they were in no way mint-condition. The accessories were long gone. The decals were half-missing. The electronic sounds no longer worked. But that didn’t matter to my son. His eyes nearly bugged out of his head, his mouth opened silent, not knowing what to say. He was dumfounded (or at least the 3-year-old equivalent).
After a beat he finally managed “For me?”
“For you buddy.”
The rest of the afternoon was spent zooming around the backyard, X-wing vs. TIE fighter, him and me, making all the wooshing, zapping and exploding sound effects ourselves. For the next 48 hours he didn’t let that X-wing out of his sight. He slept with it. He brought it with him when we went to pick up Chinese food (and showed it to all the patrons inside the restaurant). When he went to bed that night he looked at his 30+ year old plastic toy, neatly tucked under the blankets with him and said to me “Daddy, this is the greatest present I ever got in my entire life”.
I saved those toys for 30+ years. It took 3+ years of waiting before he was ready to sit through the movie (and 3 days before he broke the 30+ year old toy). It’ll take 3 hours for my wife to notice this post, read it, try and convict me, and carry out my sentence. But I tell you this: seeing the look on his face when I gave those toys to my boy, and playing non-stop with him and them for the next 48 hours, it was totally worth it.
(anyone got a couch I can crash on?)