Slipping Away

There was a time, as recently as 2 months ago, when summer fun here meant shooting each other with water guns, and for my son Snags the water guns were simply a toy, a cool way to get each other wet.  He was never one of those children to bite his toast into the shape of a gun or cock his fingers into one while shouting “Bang! Bang!”  He had a cowboy hat and a sheriff’s badge but he rarely played with them.  When he did, he never bothered about a gun.   And unlike so many of his preschool friends, he wasn’t into acting out Power Rangers on the playground and didn’t watch them on T.V.  He didn’t really understand fighting, didn’t understand much about good versus evil.  Because at the age of five there just wasn’t that much evil to have to understand; the world was basically good.  But above all, he certainly didn’t know about igniters or bombs, explosions or lasers.

In fact, until just recently my son was into Disney movies, particularly animated ones where there was a sleeping princess somewhere needing to be saved and he could pretend he was the prince responsible for the saving.

I understood him then.  I understood that language.  I am a girl, after all.  I know about princesses and frilly dresses and pretty shoes and sparkling jewelry and prince charming and all that.  And while I may not be a princess, I can certainly play one on TV.  You know, like if you video tape me pretending to be a princess while playing with my son who has his favorite blanket safety pinned to his shoulders so it resembles a prince’s cape trailing behind him.

Now, I admit, I like these games best when I can be Sleeping Beauty after touching the spinning wheel or Snow White after biting the poison apple so I can just lie on the sofa and hope that maybe Snags will get bored after a time and start watching something on Nick Jr.  Because maybe then I can get a nap.  But it rarely works out that way.  Often I’m Belle and he’s the Beast, stomping through our castle and leaving messes in his wake, or worse, he’s Gaston, ripping the book I’m trying to read right out of my hand, knocking it into a puddle, and demanding that I pay attention only to him.

These games I knew.  I understood my role.  I could play them.  And later, after we’d played, I could follow his never ending commentary about them and participate in conversations with Snags who, firmly ensconced in his booster seat in the back of the car, would question me as I drove him to preschool:

“Are we in the same forest as yesterday?” he’d inquire.  “Because I don’t remember those trees being there yesterday.  I think this forest is growing!” he’d proclaim. 

“Oh no!”  I’d retort.  “We might have trouble finding the castle.  I hope we don’t run into that old hag with the apples again.” 

And because I could, and because even if I didn’t he would continue the game without me, I’d play along for the duration of our little trip.

But now… well, now it seems as if this magical innocence of the very young, the world of fairytale princes and happy endings, is slipping away. My prince charming has been lured away from me.  Another woman has captured his attention and his heart and helped to fill his mind with bigger, more sinister things like lasers guns and explosions and violence and heavy breathing.  The kind of heavy breathing that announces “Luke!  I am your father!” And the woman who has done all of this is Princess Leia.  To my chagrin, but to my husband’s utter delight, my five year old has discovered Star Wars.  I neither understand nor speak the language, Star Wars.  This is not my native tongue. 

It started out simply enough when Snags came upon my husband playing the Lego Star Wars game on his Xbox.  He sat down to join him and before long, the game was second nature to him.  Somewhere along the way Snags found the original Star Wars movie in our video collection and one Friday night he and his father sat down to watch it.

It might have ended there.  We might have returned to a world of princesses and castles and magical fairies but we didn’t.  We had to attend a wedding and while my husband and I were busy eating and dancing and looking for my grandmother’s hearing aid, my son was being entertained by his Uncle Darth Mikey.  Darth Mikey also likes Star Wars, and he was content to watch the movie with Snags again and again before taking him to a nearby field and teaching him all about model rocketry, something Darth Mikey has held an interest in since he was a mere child himself.

So when we went to retrieve Snags and relieve Uncle Darth Mikey on that fateful evening, the first thing Snags did when he saw us was to scream in the excited voice of Luke Skywalker, “GUESS WHAT!?  WE WATCHED STAR WARS AGAIN AND WE LAUNCHED ROCKETS AND UNCLE MIKEY GAVE ME MY OWN ROCKET AND WE JUST NEED TO GET SOME MORE ROCKET ENGINES AND IGNITERS AND THEN BOOM!  THE ROCKET WILL EXPLODE UP INTO THE AIR…”   

And that’s how quickly Snag’s innocence began slipping away.  He has been officially indoctrinated into the more violent world of boy things. 

Now he prefers to play Star Wars in the back yard using sticks for light sabers shooting out deadly laser beams.  The water guns are stand-ins for whatever kind of guns they use in the movie.  Soccer balls represent bombs that some character named Greedo can throw.  When I’m enlisted in the game, I’m assigned to play the part of Princess Leia, although I don’t care for her hairstyle or the jobs I’m given – mostly pulling invisible levers to open invisible doors while the boys do all the fighting, occasionally hitting me with their light sabers. 

I’ve found, in all of this, one small ray of hope left as far as innocence is concerned.  I’m clinging to it tightly, but I fear it’s a silken thread that will be easily broken.  Right now you see, my son refers to Darth Vader as “Dark Vater” and as we drive toward preschool he explains to me how Dark Vater kills people with his “life saver.”  I’m not eager to correct him.  These small inaccuracies show me that regardless of how much he talks of lasers and ignitors, bombs, “life savers” and recovery wadding, there is still some five year old left inside him.  Still a tiny bit of innocence that has yet to slip away. 

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12 Comments

Filed under boys, growing up, imagination, Star Wars

12 responses to “Slipping Away

  1. Jen

    Just remember, Star Wars is really a futuristic fairy tale. There is still a princess that needs saving, and the witch has turned into Darth Vader, or, er, Dark Vater. And Luke is the prince. It’ll be okay. At least he’s not asking you to be the ton-ton who saves Luke from hypothermia on Hoth. Yeah, I know, I’m a geek.

  2. Jen,

    Hmmm… I ought to go back and watch all 400 movies again. I never thought of it as a futuristic fairy tale! I think with all the robots and explosions I might have missed something very important.

  3. Another great post. I am telling you…I love your writing. I love how I feel like I know you and your son. Your writings about him make me smile. You surely sound like a wonderful mother who is smitten with her boy. 🙂

  4. I enjoy reading about your life with your son because I have no idea what it is like to raise a boy—it’s like a foreign language to me and you’re my translator! We here understand the world of princesses a little too well, although my daughter is particularly smitten with Shrek and chooses the green ogre and Fiona over Cinderella every time.

  5. I wish I could say something comforting about how this is just a phase, and maybe in your house it will be. It hasn’t been in mine. My three boys all gravitated toward the “boy stuff” earlier than I would have wanted. Like you I kept trying to put the Disney stuff back on the table and they just wouldn’t go for it. My husband is into all the Star Wars stuff and they just followed in his footsteps. I tried to look at it as something that was his special thing with them, because as a stay at home mom I had so many things that really were just “mine”. This didn’t make me feel any better being chased around the house with light sabres by small children in battle position, mind you.

    Boys are a riot. Their brains really are wired differently, for better and for worse.

  6. ingeniousrose

    Oh dear Running with Books, I don’t think there is any turning back after Star Wars, Beauty and the Beast is never likely to be viewed in the same light again, not now he has visited the ‘dark side’. I am relieved at times that I have a little girl (who at the moment is mad on Belle) but soon I know the spell will be broken and she will leave the land of make-believe behind. Unless she marries a real-life prince of course which does occasionally happen over here I suppose!

  7. Mrs. Weasley

    I don’t know how to break this to you, but after Star Wars he might get into really fun things like gargling with milk at the table and burping the alphabet. My son recently spent several days amusing a couple of seven and nine year old girls with amazing things he can do with his body.

  8. Mrs. Weasley,

    I’ve already had to threaten him with “No drinks with dinner ever again!” if he didn’t stop blowing bubbles in his glass with the straw. I wouldn’t mind as much if it didn’t overflow the glass and if it was still funny the 247th time, but it did over flow and it wasn’t still funny. He’ll have to gargle with something besides milk though because he’s severely allergic to it. I mention it here: https://runningwithbooks.com/the-unfunny-files/ but it’s not a funny story so I’ve kept it off my front page. I imagine a week or two into Kindergarten and he’ll have figured out burping the alphabet. Which is why I am practicing burping “Stop that!” as I type this.

  9. rotten correspondent and ingeniousrose,
    my son has a Mickey Mouse stuffed doll he used to sleep with. It fell under his bed and was left there, forgotten, for well over a month. I found it the other day and pretended Mickey was all sad at having been left behind for Luke Skywalker and Darth Vater. Mickey’s earned a spot back on the bed, but LEGO Luke Skywalker has his very own spot on a small dollhouse bed nestled on the head board to my son’s bed.

  10. Bellevelma's Husband

    Please tell Jen that it’s taun taun, not ton ton! (And I thought they smelled bad…on the outside–Han Solo, The Empire Strikes Back)

  11. Jo Beaufoix

    Bellevelma there is definitely plenty of innocence still there.

    i thought you were going to tell us that Mickey earned a spot back on the bed, only to be implaled 5 minutes later by a light sabre.

    I’m so relieved this didn’t happen.

    Miss E is corrupted by Barbie.

    I hate the Barbie books.

    There’s one where she is a top fashion model on an aeroplane, when a man has a heart attack.
    Luckily, because she is a Doctor too, she saves his life.
    Argggggggggggggh.

  12. Jo,
    How did Barbie become a doctor? I thought she said Math was hard?

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