Monday, November 26, 2012

DNA, Character Traits, & Star Wars

While our children get 50% of their DNA from their mother and 50% from their father no matter whether they're a boy or a girl, this does not translate to their parents' traits.  Is it any wonder then that we can look at our children sometimes and see so much of ourselves in them and then, at other times, be completely baffled as to where they get certain habits or behavior.  Typically, when Benjamin gets in trouble, one of us will say, "Do you know what your child has done?"

There are times when Benjamin can be so much like me that it's like seeing an alternative universe version of myself.  I can see it in the way he makes a certain remark, his sense of humor, or his lack of rhythm (Yes, sad, but true, back in the late 80's, I was permanently exiled from Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation.").

But then there are times when I, like many parents, scratch my head and think, "Are you really my kid?"

For example, I love deli sandwiches or sub sandwiches.  Absolutely love them.  Nothing beats a great deli sandwich with a Dr. Brown's Cream Soda.  But does my son share this love?  No.  Not at all.  The only type of sandwich he'll eat is a peanut butter one.

Another example, I love to read. Long before we had a child, I dreamed of the day when I would have one and how we could bond together going to the local bookstore.  When he was little, Benjamin loved books and for us to read to him.  Now, however, he refers to reading as "boring," the deadliest sin to a kid. He views reading as a punishment.  One morning, as I was taking him to school, he started on a tirade about how boring reading was and how much he hated reading.  Then, as we pulled into his school, he asks, "Can I have some money for the book fair?"

Now, one of the most important events from my childhood came in 1977.  Some of you are scratching your heads and wondering what this would be, while others of you are shouting out the answer to your computer screen.  Yes, it was the release of the Star Wars: A New Hope.  My parents took me to see this and, since this was the time before movie trailers were everywhere, I had no clue what this movie was about.  But once I'd seen it, my life had been changed.

I was 9 years old and all I could think about was how I wanted my own lightsaber and to fly my own Millennium Falcon.  I wanted to be a Jedi, not like Luke (who could be whiny) but more like a super cool one, such as if Han Solo were a Jedi. From the moment I saw that film, I collected Star Wars figures, comic books, trading cards, and even drew my own comic books that bore more than a passing resemblance to Star Wars.  This passion only intensified with Empire Strikes Back, which remains my favorite of the Star Wars movies (How could it not be?  This was the film that introduced Boba Fett).  This meant more action figures and more trading cards.  A friend and I went to see this movie and we stayed in the theater and watched it 3 times in one day.  It's true, Return of the Jedi, lessened my enthusiasm a bit.  Like many from my generation, I was not a big fan of the super cute and cuddly Ewoks, which seemed more like a merchandising ploy.  It also killed off Boba Fett in a way that was less than impressive.  My wife still thinks it's funny that I can get so upset about these things.

Now I won't get in to the last three Star Wars films, which were all travesties.  But the fact of the matter was, that when Benjamin had gotten old enough, I tried to share these beloved classics with him.  And he couldn't have cared less.  Even as he got older, I kept trying only to be rebuffed with, "Science fiction's not really my thing."  What?  My child doesn't like Star Wars?  Say it ain't so?  But, unfortunately, it was.  My VHS tapes (I don't have any of the DVDs because those are all the corrupted, George Lucas-tampered with versions of the movies) were put away to gather dust.

Then seventh grade started.  Benjamin's best friends both love Star Wars as well as his favorite teacher.  Suddenly, he began to ask me questions about the movies and about the characters.  The VHS tapes came out.  We watched those.  I even watched the dreadful newer Star Wars movies on DVD from the library. My son and I were sharing these films together.  True, he loves the Ewoks.  Yes, he doesn't get my love for Boba Fett.  But he's watching the movies without having to be coerced or forced (no pun intended).

I pulled out all of my old Star Wars trading cards and let him have the ones I had duplicates of (on the condition that he did not trade them with anyone).  He's even doing chores to earn money to buy the new packs of Star Wars trading cards (unlike the ones I bought, these don't come with that hard, nasty tasting stick of bubble gum).   He's decorated his room with my old Star Wars figures alongside his Dr. Who action figures.

Now, when I look at him, I can say in my best James Earl Jones impression (and with that deep Darth Vader respiration going), "Benjamin, I am your father!"        

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