Star Wars has always been about parents and children, different generations trying to do better than the last. Star Wars kept me on a path where I wanted to be a better father for my kids. And my love of the saga is such that I want to share it with my kids, along with all of the lessons I’ve learned from my failures over the years. I mean, that’s what The Last Jedi is all about right? Maybe that’s why it resonated so strongly with me.
But sharing your passion with your kids is tricky, right? At what point are you forcing your love of a thing onto them? My eldest has definitely had Star Wars thrust on him in some way, whether he likes it or not. His name is Anakin. It says so on his driver’s license, too. Handing his ID over always ends in, “Really? That’s your name? That’s so cool.”
It’s been a careful balancing act to not try to force my obsessions on him further than in name only. Though I took him to see his first Star Wars film in the theater at three (Revenge of the Sith, which, according to him, is still his favorite, with Solo: A Star Wars Story now a solid second place), it was his friends that got him into the saga.
I tried to find other things to bond with him over — board games, other movies, and a hundred other things, because I wanted him to find his own relationship with Star Wars.
He loves Star Wars (though not to the degree I do), and I think letting him come to that relationship on his own was part of the reason. I tried the same with my middle daughter who is now 14 and she likes Star Wars only to the extent that Jar Jar or Ahsoka are involved.
The thing that makes me happiest as a dad, though, is getting to share moments in Star Wars that resonate with me emotionally with my kids.
It’s also been a learning tool for me. Star Wars makes me want to be a better father. I can look at things and say, “I can’t do that, I need to be less like Vader,” or “I should do more of that, I need to be more like Qui-Gon.” It’s also been a valuable tool as a parent. When Anakin was much younger, it was easy to talk to him about his actions when he threw a tantrum and explain, “That’s too much of the dark side. Do you want to be on the dark side?” It helped establish a language of metaphor with my children and enhanced our rapport. The universal cultural myth of Star Wars was something we both understood and it became a meeting place for us to see better eye to eye.
But I’ve found it’s also one of my favorite vehicles for sharing joy with my kids, and sharing joy is something that I think is important for parents.
Solo: A Star Wars Story was my youngest daughter’s first Star Wars film on the big screen. She just turned three and her only exposure to Star Wars prior to last month was The Phantom Menace. I was hoping to hold off on showing her the rest of the films until she could really digest what they were and what they were about. And since Episode I is the most kid-friendly of the films, that’s what she was able to watch when she asked for Star Wars. That’s not quite true, though. She asked for Jar Jar more than Star Wars.
Her primary interaction with Star Wars is through the toys, though. Her favorites became Chewbacca and the Millennium Falcon, in addition to Jar Jar. Why the Falcon? Well, her name is Valkyrie Amelia Falcon, her middle names loosely coming from Han’s freighter. Once she put together that the ship was representative of her, she fell in love. So making the Solo movie her first in the theater made a lot of sense.
As a parent, getting to share an experience like that with your child is electric.
We took Valkyrie to a matinee on Monday, May 28, still technically the opening weekend. She was so excited to be seeing the movie that she woke up that morning and yelled, “We’re seeing the Falcon today!”
We arrived at the theater. We brought snacks and brought her favorite milk-like beverages in case the movie wasn’t enough to hold her attention, but we were wrong to worry.
For Valkyrie, the movie kicked into high gear when Han was thrown into the pit of the beast. “Chewbacca!” she shouted with glee, probably too loudly in a crowded theater.
And I found myself misty eyed.
The water works began for me when a number of factors coalesced. As Han and crew are walking through the junkyard and Lando introduces the Falcon and John Powell’s music swells, Valkyrie with wide, bright eyes and an even wider smile says, “Hey! That’s my name! And my ship!”
To my mind, sharing moments like this, regardless of the movie or moment, is what being a dad is all about. It’s our job to instill hope and wonder and awe into our children so they can make the world in their time a better place. Star Wars is a great way to get there.