WARNING: If you have not yet seen the first Star Wars trilogy and don’t like spoilers, DO NOT READ THIS!!
I saw my husband destroy the future of a 5-year-old boy.
Here’s how it happened:
Last month, Erick and I went on what passes as a “date” for us these days: we left the girls with their visiting grandparents, and took our cars to get snow tires put on. Because it would take over an hour to get the snow tires on both cars, we decided to go for a walk in the neighborhood behind the tire dealership.
Since we live in a small town, it was inevitable that we’d run into somebody we know. In this case, we ran into some good friends from church: a mother and her two sons, playing outside. The oldest son, age 5, had recently discovered Star Wars thanks to some “easy reader” books in his kindergarten library. Let’s call him Lucas. As we approached, Lucas and his younger brother were racing around a grassy field, using sticks as light sabers.
Since Erick has three daughters, he doesn’t get to engage in much light saber play these days. So while I talked to the mom, Erick happily jumped into the action, declaring himself Boba Fett and submitting to 30 minutes of poking by little boys with sticks.
As it began to get dark and we walked our friends back to their house, Erick and Lucas discussed whether the Jedi or the Sith win at the end of Star Wars. “Of course the Jedi win,” said Erick, “The good guys always win in the end.”
Lucas’s mom, who wasn’t entirely thrilled by her son’s exposure to the violence in Star Wars, seized on this as a teachable moment. “Right, Lucas,” she said. “and it’s like we talked about: if somebody’s being mean, instead of fighting back, you can show them how to be kind.”
“Yeah,” Erick added, “Like when Luke Skywalker finds out Darth Vader is his father, Luke gives him a chance to do good at the end.”
Lucas stopped short, and looked up at Erick with huge eyes. “Wait,” he demanded, “Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s FATHER?!?”
Erick and I slowly turned to look at each other, our faces twin masks of horror: eyebrows raised, mouths in silent O’s.
Because, of course, the discovery that Darth Vader is actually Luke Skywalker’s father is a pivotal plot point in Star Wars, and it isn’t revealed until the end of the second film. Lucas has yet to watch any of the Star Wars films, but now it’s too late; Erick has ruined the experience for him. While his friends watch innocently, set up to be shocked along with Luke at this horrible revelation, Lucas will now know what’s coming. With one sentence, Erick stole his innocence. It’s the equivalent of announcing that (WARNING: More spoilers!) Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy don’t exist, or that Rosebud is a sled.
I shared this story because I think it’s funny, but there may also be a point to it. Sometimes, as parents, we’re perhaps a bit too quick to jump on those “teachable moments,” to become didactic and rush to impart deep life lessons to our children. Our intentions are completely honorable. But could it be that, in doing this, we rob our children of the magic that comes from direct experience? Simply put, we talk too much. We didn’t need to tell Lucas that the good guys win in the end; eventually, when he watched Star Wars, he would’ve figured that out for himself.
This parenting gig, it’s like flying your X-Wing Fighter into the Death Star without a radar. May the force be with you.