On Star Wars, and not having all the answers

Well, hello! As Meagan wrote yesterday, there are some exciting developments happening here at The Happiest Mom – and one of them is me! I’m Sarah and I’m now Managing Editor for the blog, and I’ll also be contributing regularly. You can read more about me on the About page and more from Meagan on what’s new around here in yesterday’s post.

kids and star wars

Recently I’ve come to a parenting crossroads. Maybe you know the feeling: you find yourself lying awake at night wondering what to do next, and despite no shortage of Google-able information and heated opinions you’re still not sure what the right answer is for your family. I’ve been feeling unsure, resistant to change, and most of all, really really unprepared for what I’m facing.

You see, my kids have discovered Star Wars. And I’ve never seen Star Wars.

Let’s talk about that last statement first. Since I’m new here on The Happiest Mom I feel the need to defend myself a little. I’m not pop-culturally illiterate, I promise. (Here, I’ll prove it to you: Did you know that not only is Sean going to be the next Bachelor, but that they’re bringing back one of the girls from a previous season to compete? My money is on Kacey B. from Ben’s season.) I just missed the boat on Star Wars for a few reasons: one, I was born in 1980, making me just a little too young to enjoy the first round of movies; two, I’m the oldest in my family and therefore didn’t have older siblings or other kids around me to indoctrinate me into the world of Obi-Wan; and three, I’ve just never been into anything resembling sci-fi or fantasy — even the stuff that seems to have wildly popular appeal.

So here I am, a child of the 80’s who has never seen any of the Star Wars movies — married, no less, to a child of the late 70’s who spent his boyhood brandishing lightsabers and perfecting his Yoda voice. And now we are parents to two amazing and curious kids who have caught the bug.

It started with my two-year-old’s obsession with swords, jousting, knights and castles. (Okay, mostly swords.) At a friend’s house one day he discovered a fascinating variation on the sword: a lightsaber. Back at home my husband was eager to regale both kids with stories of Jedi Knights, lightsaber battles, Darth Vadar, and other things I still don’t understand and can’t pronounce. Pretty soon the three of them were holding Jedi Master training sessions in the living room, complete with sound effects and technical terminology.

For now we have decided that the kids are too young to watch the movies (I keep hearing that five or six is about the right age, and ours are two and four-and-a-half). Of course that hasn’t stopped them from learning the characters and stories, and the reach of the Lucas empire means that they see the images on everything from stickers and storybooks to t-shirts and sippy cups.

So into our life Star Wars has come, and here I am feeling a little, well, unsure about it all.

It’s not that I have specific objections to the storyline (what I know of it, anyway); while I’m pretty careful about the kids’ exposure to scary or violent media at this age, I’m actually much less concerned when it comes to stories that we read or tell or talk about at home. My personal opinion is that some “good guys vs. bad guys” imaginative play is healthy and developmentally normal, so I’m fine with sword fights and lightsaber battles, as long as there are obvious safety boundaries and mutual consent among all “fighters.”

So why the parental anxiety on my part? I think it’s because I didn’t see this coming. I didn’t know that I’d need to brush up on my 80’s pop culture knowledge to answer my preschooler’s questions about the Millennium Falcon. One minute they were into The Sword in the Stone (one of my favorite Disney movies as a kid) and the next we were transported to a galaxy far, far away. I was more prepared for discussions about tough subjects, like how exactly this baby got into my belly (and how she’s going to get out) or what happens when we die. Those conversations don’t even phase me, but seriously: what do I say if they ask me why Darth Vadar is the bad guy?

I realize that in the grand scheme of things this is not a big problem. But the feeling of being unprepared is something that many moms — especially new moms — face at some point. For those of us who feel better when we know what’s coming, this can be a little unsettling; it can make us feel like we showed up to class without having done our homework and now surprise! POP QUIZ.

But, of course, it’s impossible to be prepared for everything. Maybe you read every book on sleep training, then ended up with a perfect sleeper who challenged you in other areas, like teething or breastfeeding. Maybe you were dead-set on a certain style of parenting but found that it just plain didn’t work with your child and you found yourself back at the drawing board. Or maybe you felt prepared for everything having to do with the baby, but struggled with the “mom-stuff”: making friends, finding time for yourself, and figuring out how your new life as a mom meshes with your life pre-kids. It’s a lesson in flexibility, this role — you can study up all you want, but in the end so much of the learning we do happens on the fly.

I guess in this case, I have two choices: become a Star Wars expert by watching the (six?) movies, or let go of the need to have all the answers. While my husband would love nothing more than a Star Wars movie marathon, I think the second option will serve me better in the long run. I’m pretty sure my kids will survive if I never learn how to pretend to be Han Solo (or never quite figure out who that even is). It’s possible to help our family make good choices about what movies and media are appropriate without in-depth knowledge of every scene of every story. And maybe most importantly, I am sure my kids are better off without mom sharing in every phase and obsession they go through.

So bring on Luke and Leia and Jabba the Hutt. I may have no idea who they are, but I’m prepared to live with that.

Do you have Star Wars fans in your house? Am I really missing anything by not ever watching the movies? Have you ever been caught off guard by or felt unprepared for a phase your kids went through?

Photo credit: Andres Rueda via Flickr Creative Commons

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