Category Archives: imagination

Use The Force, Luke!

My son, Snags, has been watching a lot of Star Wars lately.  He’s totally enthralled by it.  So much so, that he’s been sucked in, and he’s changed his own identity.  He calls himself Luke Skywalker now.  And if I want to get his attention, I have to call him that too. 

This is not the first time he’s changed his name.  Over his short life he’s been Eddie, Bob the Builder, Diego, Willy Wonka, Fred Jones, The Beast, and Peter Pan, to name just a few. 

The first time he changed his name publicly, Snags was three years old and we were out for a walk around our neighborhood.  Snags ran up to an elderly couple in their driveway.  “Hello!  What’s your name?” they asked him.  “Diego!” he lied. 

Diego?  Diego?  My husband and I just looked at each other.  Diego wasn’t his name.  What were we supposed to do?  But before we could do anything they pointed at our dog.  “And what’s your dog’s name?” they asked him.  “Kutchee!” he lied again.

My husband and I were shocked.  We didn’t know what to do.  And we didn’t know the elderly couple.  On one hand we didn’t think lying was appropriate, on the other hand, they were strangers.  So instead of telling them, “Oh, he’s just kidding!  His name isn’t Diego.  It’s Snags…” we simply gathered Snags up and wished the couple a nice evening.  Once we were a few blocks away we asked Snags why he had told the couple his name was Diego.  But he wouldn’t answer.

Not long after that he told the librarian that his name was Peter Pan.  I’m pretty sure she knew he was lying, but she was kind.  She helped him find the book he was looking for anyway. 

After a while, getting dressed in the mornings became difficult.  He needed a tool belt, or a field journal, a “W” brooch to wear on his collar, an entire outfit of the color green, or a white shirt with a blue collar and blue pants to look like Fred.  White shirts aren’t a good choice for young boys who seem to think “shirt” is another word for “napkin”.

Each time my son would change his identity he’d insist that everyone address him by his new name.  Even his teachers.  We’d walk into preschool and the director would say hello and he’d ignore her.  “That’s funny!” He’d whisper to me.  “She doesn’t know my new name, does she?” he’d ask with a sly smile playing on his lips.

On his school papers he’d write his new name: Willy Wonka, he’d print.  The letters would be large and shaky and ill-formed and often backwards.  The alphabet of a child just learning how to write.  Eventually his teachers would concede, and while I never knew if they actually called him by his new name, his cubby would be re-labeled.  “Snags” would be replaced with a plastic label on which “Willy Wonka” was neatly punched out.

Sometimes my son would change his identity after only a day.  Like he was changing his underwear.  Other times it would be weeks, or even months before he’d turn into someone new.  Eventually another television show or movie would catch his fancy and he’d trade the old identity in for another, and we’d start all over.

At various times he’d think about his future and map it all out.  “When I get married,” he’d tell me, “I’m going to have 10 children.  Their names will be: Peter Pan, Wendy, Michael, John, Captain Hook, Mr. Smee, Tinkerbell, and “Alltheotherpirates”.  And I’d listen to that and count them out on my fingers.  That’s only eight children,” I felt compelled to correct him.  But then I’d think how, maybe it was okay because if you actually had 10 children, you might forget a few of their names.

I imagine Peter Pan, Wendy, Michael, and John would have it somewhat easy.  Peter could claim Pan as a middle name and simply go by Peter.   Wendy, Michael, and John are all nice, normal names.  Probably many of their friends and classmates will share the same first name.

But the others, I feel for.  I really do.  Captain Hook?  Even if the poor fellow uses Hook as his middle name, Captain as a first name sounds a little pretentious.  Or pet-like. “And this is my new cat, Captain.”  And how about Tinkerbell?.  Let’s hope he gives that name to one of his girls.  She’ll be teased enough with that name, but if Snags’ Luke Skywalker’s wife should bear only one female child, and they name her Wendy, then one of the seven boys is going to be beaten up at the playground on a daily basis.

And Mr. Smee?   That, to me, sounds like the lad is in some pretty big trouble.  Like when your mother or father calls you by your full name.  You just know you’re in for it.  You’ve gotten caught at something you’ve done and now, when your parents add Mister to your name you’re officially in trouble. 

The one I worry about the most is Alltheotherpirates.  Even I want to tease the child and he or she isn’t even born yet.

Then again, Snags’ Luke’s done this before, planned his future family out.  Only he had other children with other names.  When he thought he was Willy Wonka he decided his children would be named Charlie Bucket, Mike Teevee, Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, and Violet Beauregarde.  This was brought up daily for months.

“But what if your wife doesn’t like those names?” I asked him. 

“Oh, she will!” he insisted.  “She won’t have a choice.”

And I don’t understand that.  Because in this household, things are more or less split 50/50.  I couldn’t and wouldn’t abide by a 1950’s traditional household where June Cleaver does all the cooking and cleaning and laundry and the man comes home after work and pours himself a drink and puts his feet up.  In my house, my husband often gets home from work before me and he unloads the dishwasher and starts dinner.  I admit I’d prefer that he have my Mojito all ready for me when I walk in the door, but he rarely does.  And that’s okay.  I understand he’s already got his hands full and he can’t take time out to make my drink because he’s busy with the Filet Mignon.  He knows I’d be mad if he let it burn…  So why Snags Luke Skywalker thinks he can dictate the number or names of the children he and his future wife will have, is beyond me.  He’s not learning that attitude here.
 
All I can think is he’s planning to use The Force upon his wife.  Perhaps then she’ll bend to his will.  Maybe with The Force he can mold her mind to not only agree with having ten children, but also with giving them the crazy names of his favorite movie characters. 

He demonstrated this to me just the other day.  I was at the kitchen table eating a bowl of cereal for breakfast when Luke told me to close my eyes and “keep them closed until I tell you to open them.”  When I did open them, the kitchen light was on, where it had been off just a moment before.  It was also swinging on its chain. 

I was surprised.  I thought perhaps there was some kind of electrical surge, but Luke admitted that HE had actually turned on the light and set it swinging by using The Force!  When I feigned shock at his ability, he thought it uproariously funny and so he spent the next half hour flipping lights off and on and poking the hanging lamp with his plastic light saber, all the while insisting he was doing it with The Force.

When I told him to turn the lights and leave them out out so we could save some money on our electric bill, he obliged but moved the game along to transporting things, both needed and unneeded, to me.  Again, he used The Force to do this.  I had to close my eyes as he brought my book (needed), a jar of spaghetti sauce (unneeded), and a can of Diet Coke (morning caffeine fix, very much needed) to me where I was still sitting at the table.

Eventually I tired of the game and got what I thought was the greatest idea any mother ever had.  I suggested he use The Force to clean up his toys.  He looked at me.  Then he said, “I can’t.  The Force doesn’t work for that.  I’ve turned that program off.”  And he turned his back and walked away.  As I watched him retreat I thought, “Oh yeah, we’ll see what your wife thinks about that, Mr. Luke Skywalker!”

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Filed under children, identity, imagination, Luke Skywalker, Snags, Star Wars, The Force

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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Filed under boys, growing up, imagination, Star Wars