“Why didn’t you and Daddy call me Luke Skywalker?” has been Bob’s question lately. A tricky one to answer, because son, we wouldn’t want the crap beaten out of you.
Star Wars is Bob’s first addiction. Initially we were baffled how he even knew about Darth Vader and R2D2, not being frequent visitors to our Redwood forest. Turned out George Lucas did us a favour. In Star Wars, he created a whole vernacular that speaks five-year-old boy so well.
When Bob doesn’t want to eat his Broccoli we adopt Yoda’s counsel. “Broccoli eat, big you will be young Skywalker”. When he complained about going to gymnastics we changed the name to Jedi training. Feeling apprehensive about his first day of school we had our line ready – use your force darling. You are strong.
Taking Bob to school was originally our D Day – time to skedaddle home to New Zealand. That first week, leaving the house at 7.20am and driving for an hour was brutal. Hideous. Mentally I was packing my suitcase. “We might as well live in LA,” I moaned to the Dimple, with all the time spent in the car. But then, after school, we’re back in our forest. Together.
By the end of the second week of school I was exactly the strong Mum I expected to be. I watched the other Mothers at drop off with tearful goodbyes and strutted on by. Way better than that. On it. Firm but fair. Nothing too squishy about me. Bob was surprisingly cool about school too. Like the Jedi, we were in command of our emotions I told myself. In Command!
Then it hit me in the face last Friday like a Wellington storm. Bob stood in line with his classmates, not doing the arm movements to the very corny school rainbow song. He looked at the surf kid with the long blonde curly hair. Already Emiliano is the dude of the class. Bob waved at him – a hand toss, hardly anything enthusiastic – and Emiliano ignored him. It broke my heart. I couldn’t bear to look because the storm was sprinting down my cheeks. Doesn’t everyone want to be Bob’s friend? He’s a dude in his own way; the coolest five-year-old I know.
Like me, he’s eager to please. Eager to be liked. Sometimes I am too eager for my own good – I can’t even keep enemies for long because after a while I want them to like me too.
Eager you must not be, my son. Hurt fast you will be.
But of course I can’t say such things. He has to learn, navigate his way through the social landscape of the playground and discover the best way to be cool is to be himself.
Grateful for my sunglasses I left the school leaking. The Force barely with me. Right on queue I bumped into a friend who said with sagacious eyes, “Sending your first-born off to school is like having your heart walk around outside your body. You feel it every time it crashes into something new.”
That night when I tucked Bob into bed he said, “Emiliano knows my name Mum!”
My heart crashed into the drawers.
“Good, now you know each other’s names,” I said.
He hugged me and it was one of those long, hang around the neck hugs. The ones I wasn’t getting when we spent all day together in our forest because he didn’t need them.
My heart jogged around the room.
That hug made me realize that’s all I can be for him as he navigates the popularity roller coaster of school: there when he needs to spring back. I used to be a whole body to him, now I’m a neck and an unpredictable heart. One day I’ll become an annoying nose wanting to know more about his life than he wants to share. Then eventually I’ll be a memory. Enthusiastic dust.
“Own him we cannot,” said the Dimple when I told him – still leaking – which was translated after a glass of wine into, “Don’t put your shit on him.”
“For five years I’ve managed his shit!” I blubbed.
I’ve stepped in to solve squabbles, swooping my wand around, but now he’s on his own. Hopefully we’ve taught him to trust in his own Force and how to be himself.
Attachment, according to Yoda, leads to fear; the path to the dark side.
Own him I cannot.
I am a neck.
Whenever I feel my Force leaking – like my heart has just banged into something else – I’m thankful for Star Wars, without which we couldn’t speak Bob so well and I wouldn’t have this clip which makes me laugh every single time.
PS A wonderful woman, mother, photographer and friend, Helena Hughes just passed away and the eulogy her equally wonderful husband wrote was breath-taking. He said he wished for one thing: more time together as a family. Thank you Phil for reminding me we’re not nuts living here.