Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The circle is now complete

From Alice Bradley, a story of how she lost her son to the dark side with, you guessed it, the sinister help of his father.
In the living room, my husband and son are killing each other. "Zat!" cries Henry. "Zat zat zat! I got you with my lightsaber!" "But I am your faaather..." Scott gasps, clutching his stomach. It's too late. Henry, 5, has gone over to the dark side. There's a lot of killing going on in our house. Most of the carnage occurs on Saturday mornings, although occasionally there's time for a duel or two before school.
To say that the story of a child becoming deeply obsessed with Star Wars because of indoctrination from a parent rang true for our household is an understatement. Remove the frustrated mother, replace her with someone complicit and change son to daughter and you have our experience. Why just last weekend an army of children all ages were running around our house with lightsabres saying "prepare to die" and me revealing to three of them that "I am your father. You know it to be true." And yes, we had more than enough lightsabres to go around (adults included)!

I suspect the story is a very familiar one. Parents love Star Wars as children and can't wait to introduce their own to the whole thing. For us, we lucked out that the prequels rocked around so that our eldest could see the last two in the movies (and yes, she was like 4 for Attack of the Clones but she has terrific tolerance for violence and bad dialogue). That mean freely available Star Wars toys in the shops. There were light sabres (even plush ones for babies), action figures, ships, talking Yodas and interactive R2D2's, little Russian doll style toys, clothes and dress-ups galore (including one awesome Darth Vader mask -- and let me tell you, you ain't seen nothing until a 5 year old wearing one of those comes around a corner. Scary and funny at the same time), Mr Potato Head (you know Darth Tater), children's books (including a Pop-up one), video games, and, of course, the wonder that is Star Wars Lego. With parents for whom this was virtual religion, we could say goodbye to spare cash.

Now the way to story is supposed to go is one of grave disappointment. You know, the kids never really care and the parents are forlorn. But no. Just as in the Bradley household, our children took up the cause. For our eldest daughter, it took her away from the year that was the Wizard of Oz (let me tell you, you don't want to open that can or worms with a 3 year old) and into a full blown Star Wars obsession. Dueling was a continual activity and my daughter could recite Weird Al's "The Saga Begins" by heart. There was constant movie watching as she realised that like some Jedi-mind trick, we could never deny her Star Wars like we could normal television. Much to my surprise, the obsession actually became too much. But here is the dismay part -- almost completely focussed on the new movies. How much Jar Jar could we take? (And by the way, those were the cheapest toys of the bunch). But it passed and they moved on.

So this experience is a cautionary one. You can indoctrinate your children with your own childhood obsessions. But it can go too far. And it is, I guess, somewhat fleeting. A few years later you are left with a house full of Star Wars stuff, used and non-collectible and a child singing Hanna Montana songs. It really isn't the best of both worlds.