We don’t do a whole lot of TV in my household. We don’t have cable. We like to keep the inbound visual media our kid is exposed to infrequent, we always pre-approve it, and when possible we watch it with him. I don’t want to sound like an ogre. It’s just that there’s a lot of questionable material out there and he’s impressionable.
Which is why when I came home on Monday and saw what was on the TV, I glared at the couch. Shawn and I had discussed this particular issue before and come to an impasse. It’s rare we have differing opinions of any kind on parenting, but it’s a tricky business guiding a young person though the perils on the way to adulthood these days, and there are many slippery slopes to navigate, so I suppose it was bound to happen.
Now Shawn sat next to Luke on the couch and looked up at me. “I’m sorry,” he mouthed. “It’s worse than I remembered.”
“No, you’re right.” I sighed. “If he doesn’t learn about it from us, he’ll find out about it from his friends. At least here we can open a meaningful dialogue.
I set my bag down and took my place on the other side of Luke.
“Honey, I think we need to have a talk about what you’re watching here.”
“Huh?” My three-year-old looked up at me. What I can only (politely) describe as an amphibious version of lop-eared rabbit blundered about on the screen. I set my back to it.
“You understand that what you’re watching here is only pretend Star Wars, right?”
He looked from me back to the screen.
“I don’t understand that guy.”
“Nobody understands that guy. But do you understand what I’m talking about?”
“Pretend Star Wars?”
“Yes. Think of it like fan fiction. It’s not real. You know that, right?”
“Uh-huh. What’s real Star Wars?”
“Real Star Wars has the Millennium Falcon in it.”
Luke gave a good three-year-old best at repeating that. “What’s the Millemanom Facon?”
“Millennium Falcon, love. It’s the circle ship.”
“Oh, I like the circle ship. It goes fast.”
“Yes. Yes, it does.”
I quickly cast around in my mind for other, easy-to-grasp differences. Yoda and Chewbacca were out. Luke Skywalker? He’s in Episode III, but only as a whining baby. And being perfectly honest with myself I had to admit that was not necessarily a distinguishing difference.
“The Millennium Falcon and Han Solo are in real Star Wars.” I gestured over my shoulder. “And Jar Jar Binks,” I repressed a shudder, “is pretend Star Wars. Is that clear, love?”
“That’s a good boy.”
“What’s that bad guy’s name?” He gestured to the light saber battle on screen.
“The bad guy’s name is George Lucas.”
“You’re confusing the kid,” Shawn said.
I turned to my husband, “You’ll find many of the truths we cling to depend greatly upon our own point of view.”
Luke tilts his head to the side. “Why is it George Lucas?”
“Because he went over to the dark side, love bug.”
“No one knows.”
Two nights later, we sat on the family couch again. Two movies in one week is an extraordinary thing in this house, but Shawn and I felt it was important to strike while the iron was hot, so to speak.
“That’s Darth Vader.”
“What happened to his hat?”
“He took it off,” Shawn explains. “He wanted to see his son. See, Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s dad. Did you know that?”
“Oh, that’s good. Dads are fun. What are they talking about?”
“Well, Darth Vader saved Luke from the Evil Emperor, and Luke saved Darth Vader too.”
“Darth Vader’s a hero,” Luke said plainly.
Shawn and I smile at each other over the top of his fluffy little head.
“Yeah, he is now.”
“Can I be an Ewok for Halloween?”
“Yes, you may.”
“Can I have a gun?”
“How about a bow and arrow?” Shawn suggests.
“Oh, that’d be good. I’m going to stay on the light side of the force.”
“I’m glad, love.”