Two very important events occurred in 1977. One, I was born. Two, Star Wars came out. I’ll let you contemplate which was more important, but I am willing to concede that my birth may not be number one.
Thirty-five years later when I found out that my wife was pregnant, one of the first things to enter my mind was...what order to show my child the Star Wars movies? I feel like I am losing some of you, so bear with me. This is a big deal to parents of a certain age. Check Reddit if you don’t believe me.
I narrowed the options to the following:
- Watch in order of release, starting with Star Wars from 1977
- Watch in order of story, starting with The Phantom Menace from 1999
- Watch only the original trilogy, disavowing all knowledge of the prequels (at the time of the pregnancy, The Force Awakens was three years away and therefore never entered into the calculation)
- It didn’t matter because George Lucas destroyed the films with his incessant meddling, ruined my childhood memories and therefore robbed me of the opportunity to re-experience the films in their original glory with my precious offspring!
As you can see, I have issues...with Star Wars. I will not bore you with them at this time. But these were real debates I had in my head, and occasionally out loud with people I trusted who had already judged me and still found me worthy of friendship and marriage.
Star Wars meant so much to me as a child that I had dreamed of the day that I would watch them with my kids and marvel as they were transfixed by what they were seeing. Cheering as the Millennium Falcon comes to the rescue and Luke blows up the Death Star in Star Wars. Shocked at the “big reveal” in The Empire Strikes Back. Awed by the final battles in Return of the Jedi. The Ewoks. Well, maybe not the Ewoks. Seeing the movies through their eyes.
The problem, as Admiral Ackbar would exclaim, is that this is a trap – one that we should avoid. In doing so, there is an important lesson for us as parents: Our kids are not us. Our parental expectations are often the source of our greatest disappointments, while the child has done nothing wrong. We can’t help but have expectations, but they often blind us to what is really happening. And the reality is that our kids might not meet these expectations. And that’s okay. They will be who they are and that’s enough. I would not force my children to love Star Wars any more than I would force them to be doctors. We have to give them space. The situation ultimately boils down to a central question: Whose happiness are we truly invested in – theirs, or ours?
In Empire, Yoda tells Jedi-in-training Luke Skywalker, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” Never is this truer than in parenting. Preconceived notions of our kids, of ourselves as parents, ways of parenting picked up from our parents. Some are good, some are bad, and some are just plain ugly. We have the constant push and pull in us of what to do in any given moment. We succeed and fail, sometimes in equal measure. And so do our kids.
Destiny plays a big part in the mythology of Star Wars, but it’s important to note that the story never treats destiny as something that either just happens to someone or is foisted upon you by someone else. Each person must fulfill their own destiny, and that’s another lesson that parents need to keep in mind. We can’t live our kids' lives for them. As parents, we must guide them as best we can, but ultimately, they need to find destiny through their own choices.
You may be wondering what I ended up doing with my kids. Well, because I’m me, I hunted down the original, unaltered trilogy, and with the help of my more tech savvy friends, I was able to put them into a format that allowed me to screen. They are the only versions permitted in my home. The movies are still glorious (Return of the Jedi, not so much). My son likes them and my daughter just sat through the first film recently without falling asleep. I’m ok with them not having the same reaction and connection with them as I did. But they will never see Jar Jar Binks on my watch.
Unless they choose to.
(Even though I hope they don’t.)
Happy May the 4th, and may the Force be with you, always.