I stood in the large corridor of a First Order Star Destroyer after my transport was captured attempting to flee the planet Batuu. I was traveling with my mother, Joan, my 8-year-old daughter, Charlotte, and dozens of others seeking refuge. As we were lined up to be brought in to interrogation, a young-looking First Order Officer taunted a few of the other prisoners. When none would reveal themselves as members of the Resistance, he made a bee-line for my daughter, staring her down. Frightened, but fiercely protective, I stepped out of line directly in his path, and with as much bravado as I could muster under the circumstances I said, “Leave her alone, nerf herder.” The First Order Officer was momentarily taken aback at my disrespect.
My daughter, in fear for my safety, or perhaps due to embarrassment, begged me to be quiet. The First Order Officer, for reasons that are wholly his own, relented, and walked away with a sarcastic retort, “I see we’ve heard from the tactical genius.” From that point on, it was a thrilling and daring escape from the First Order Star Destroyer and as soon as I landed back on Batuu I excitedly turned to Charlotte and asked if she wanted to ride Rise of the Resistance again. “Meh”, was her reply. “I have a bad feeling about this”, I thought to myself.
After a few years of trying to entice her to sit with me and watch the Original Trilogy, I thought actually being in Galaxy’s Edge at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios would do the (Jedi mind) trick and convince her. I was wrong. She and her sister, my daughter Penny, who just turned 4 years old, begrudgingly rode Star Tours after my wife, Sarah, said “Please, your dad doesn’t ask for much and this will make him happy” roughly 47 times. Charlotte refused to pilot the Millennium Falcon with me on Smuggler’s Run, and both kids had no interest in taking a photo in front of any of the number of cool things scattered around the park; like Poe’s X-Wing, Kylo Ren’s TIE Echelon, or my favorite Star Wars character Chewbacca.
Don’t get me wrong, Charlotte and Penny had a fantastic time over the 6 days we spent in Disney World, despite my attempts to interest them in Star Wars. They loved the pool at the resort, the safari in Animal Kingdom, Toy Story Mania, and so many other things. I don’t want to be mistaken, I had fun too, but it was a bit disheartening. On the plane home, as I was thinking back about the trip, I was reminded of Patton Oswalt’s bit from Talking for Clapping where he discusses how Star Wars was his “realm”, but his daughter isn’t into it, and he didn’t want to be the equivalent of a sports-obsessed father that makes their kid play football until it builds to that “I don’t want your life” moment in Varsity Blues.
I want my children to have their own likes and interests. I want my children to discover their own realms and get lost in them like I did with Star Wars. Recently, Charlotte has been into The Last Kids on Earth graphic novel series. Penny loves Bluey. As they get older, they will discover other things they love. Maybe one day one of those things will be Star Wars. Maybe it never will and that’s okay. I’ve had a few small victories. When Charlotte was three years old, I bought her the Star Wars Little Golden Book set that covered the Original Trilogy and the Prequels and for a while, she enjoyed when I read them to her at bedtime. Both kids think lightsabers are fun and they like their “Baby Yoda” shirts.
I was born in 1979, and as far back as I can remember, there was Star Wars. I saw Return of the Jedi in the theatre, and a few summers later my mom bought me a ROTJ t-shirt on the Wildwood, NJ boardwalk with an iron-on transfer that I wore until the picture had completely faded away. My family didn’t have a lot of money, but my parents would take me to the nearby Kiddie City on payday and I could get one Kenner action figure. My mom still reminds me that I would infuriatingly tell them the action figure I was going to pick next payday as we left the store. I still have all of those action figures. They’re in a Darth Vader case in my basement that I’d bring out and play with along with Charlotte and Penny and their figures from My Little Pony, Hatchimals, and Disney Princesses.
When I was a kid, Star Wars felt like it was fully mine. I wanted to be Luke Skywalker and be friends with Han Solo and Chewbacca. I pretended I was rescuing Princess Leia from Jabba the Hutt. I fought alongside Ewoks at the Battle of Endor. I trained to be a Jedi with Obi-Wan and Yoda. I felt brave, powerful, and part of something bigger than myself. Star Wars gave me hope. Hope that a too short, annoying kid from a twin home in Linwood, PA might matter. I wanted to share that with my girls. I wanted them to be empowered by Star Wars the same as I had been. I wanted them to participate in the fun of Star Wars.
I’ve come to realize though they have their own things that empower them. Their own worlds that they immerse themselves in and I will share in those worlds when they let me. As Yoda said to Luke in The Last Jedi, “Luke, we are what they grow beyond.”