Tuesday, October 28, 2014

If You Want Your Kids to Love Star Wars, You Must Stop Hating Star Wars

The year is 1977. Star Wars is on the big screen for the first time. The look of the film is something you have never seen before. You may be only 10 years old but you know that what you have seen is something special. You know that you will remember this moment for the rest of your life. 
Cut to 1980. You just turned 13. All your friends are excited to line up for the release of Empire Strikes Back. You have spent the last 3 years dreaming of this moment. Playing with your figures in the sandbox acting out scenes on Tatooine. Convincing, Lisa, the pretty girl next door to be the Leia to your Luke and stealing a kiss when she wasn't expecting it. Little did you know the impact the movie you are a bout to see will have on you. Once again, you will be seeing a near perfect film. It doesn't get any better than this.
Move on to 1983. You borrowed your dads brand new Toyota Celica Supra and picked up Lisa to take her for the opening of Return of the Jedi. You are in love, the girl and the movie make the most perfect night you could imagine. After you drop Lucy off at home you sit in your dads car and dream of what the future will hold.
Go on to 1997. Star Wars is back in Theaters. All 3 movie are being re-released but now they are updated and being called, "Special Edition." You buy tickets to the first showing, one for you and one for your new wife, Lucy. Driving to the theater you reminisce about the old days and talk about how the movies changed your lives. Then the opening crawl begins and you see the difference. The quality looks great, the movie holds up...But there are little things you notice. Scenes added in that don't seem to fit. And didn't Han shoot first. Your whole memory of what you believe Star Wars to be has changed. A short time later you get to see Empire and Jedi in this same new edition and you somehow feel...Disappointed. "But that's OK," you think to yourself, "I just found out they are making Episode I, II, and III. Those will certainly be amazing."
Skip forward to 1999. You are 32. You have had tickets to see The Phantom Menace for weeks. How lucky you were to have a brand new mega theater with 25 screens that sold tickets weeks in advanced! You and Lucy crowd into the giant theater with many old friends that were there with you in line for Empire Strikes Back. The lights dim and the music hits and the yellow crawl fills the screen. Thing were right again. The movie ends and something just feel off. So you go again and see what it was...And you realize. You hate this movie. Sure it is Star Wars; it has Jedi, it has aliens and spaceships and blasters...But it feels wrong somehow.
Jump to 2002. Attack of the Clones is out and yet you feel the same something isn't right with it but you plug on and decide to just wait for Episode III.
Move forward to 2005. Lucy is at home with the baby and has let you go out to see the midnight viewing of Revenge of the Sith. Now they seemed to hit it right. But it's over and the prequels have destroyed your faith in Star Wars. 

I should begin this by stating I am a major apologist when it comes to Star Wars and the Prequels. I have never held back my feelings about Episodes I, II & III, which is that I enjoy them. Therefore, I am kind of biased when it come to that. Recently I heard a song titled, "Why Is Dad So Mad?, a song about kids wondering why dad is so mad when they watch Star Wars. Hearing this made me think about what I have done with my kids and how they developed a love for the movies. I have never really held Star Wars back, I will let them watch them all except for Episode III (so they will be surprised when they see Anakin become Vader) and Episode V (so they are surprised when they learn Vader is Luke's dad) and I let watch Episode I as much as they want. No matter how much the Gungans or young Anakin may annoy me instead of turning and telling them this I say, "Look at those funny guys, kids. Aren't they silly?" then they laugh and want to watch more. Later, when they are a little older, they want to watch more as well but ignore the "silly" guys.

My kids love Star Wars. It is always a big part of my life. I read the books and I quote them when possible and the kids are always being exposed to it, through me. That being said, I have never pushed them to like it. I don't force them to watch the movies; I let them tell me when they will watch them. People always roll their eyes when I say I force it on my kids but the reality is I don't. I have the belief kids will always rebel against what their parents like when they are being forced into it. If you force your child to always listen to country music he will listen to rap as a teenager. I don't want them to hate Star Wars because their dad always forced them to watch it. I want them to come to it on their own and if they end up not liking it then it doesn't matter...I will still love them. In the end it's not about whether or not they are like us, it's about whether they respect us.

Imagine a kid who grows up with a dad that says he loves Star Wars but always says bad things about George Lucas and how he ruined Star Wars. I imagine my 6 year old, who will be nearly 8 when Episode VII is released, would not be looking forward to it if all I ever do is say bad things about the old one. Comments like, "I only like the theatricals versions, not the Special Messed Up Editions," and "the prequels are so bad I doubt the new stuff will be good," will be noticed by your kids even if you don't say them to them directly. I feel every dad that likes Star Wars wants to enjoy them with their kids. So let's do them a favor. Stop making fun of the past and look toward the future. Be positive and expect the best. Stop hating the prequels and enjoy them with your family. Simply because if you want them to love Star Wars, you must stop hating Star Wars.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Diaper Nostalgia

There I am walking into a truck at my part time job at UPS when it hits me. That smell so familiar that I will never forget it. I sniff around looking for the source, knowing exactly what it will be and sure enough I find it. It's a box full of diapers. As a parent you will always know that smell. The smell of a fresh diaper. Whether it is Pampers, Luvs or Huggies you learn to know them all. They are all unique and if you have had a baby you have more than likely bought them all. You have trained your nose to that smell from the opening of a fresh pack to the sniffing of a toddlers butt with he hopes you will smell that fresh smell and not the bomb the child may have left you. For me it is instant nostalgia; it brings me right back to the time I changed that first diaper on my oldest boy.

I remember the hospital diapers and how they didn't really have a smell but when we first got home and opened that first pack of Luvs diapers. Of all the diaper brands Luvs has the strongest smell; those were among the first ones we used and I hated it. The smell was too strong and made me feel sick from time to time. Over the years, though, I grew to love that smell and when I would walk by a store baby aisle or come to close to a persons diaper bag I could always spot the Luvs. And now I when I spot it I immediately go back to that first diaper change with all my kids and feel sad and happy that they aren't that small anymore. It reminds me how much they have grown and how much I have grown, not only as a father but as a man and a human.

Of course, I am not the perfect dad right now but when I remember how I was before that first diaper change and where I am now I see how much I have grown. I remember when My cousin handed me her baby years before I had my first baby and I was freaking out. I didn't want to drop the kid and I basically didn't want to be in that moment holding a baby. It scared me and I knew I wouldn't be a good father but when I had my own baby in my arms all that fear was gone and when I opened that first inky diaper and pulled out the fresh diaper and smelled that fresh diaper smell, I knew it would be all right. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

One Way to Fight Childhood Obesity

Child obesity is a growing problem in our country. There are many ways to combat this; buying healthier snacks and encouraging outside play are the top suggestions but where do we really start. How can we, as a country even begin to turn around this growing problem?  It begins with being an example to your children. By being an example of control and fitness. It begins by showing our kids that it is not OK to overeat and that watching TV all the time isn't good for you.

I have always been a big guy and even though I have lost some weight and I am being more fit I still have a big belly. My son, Jude, told me that he wants a big belly like mine. I didn't know what to say to him. On one hand, him saying this, means that he idolizes me and wants to be just like me when he grows up. On the other hand, he wants to be the worst part of me and the part of me I hate the most. When I was a kid I was always a bigger kid than most and because of being bigger I would be identified as a fat kid. Now that I am older and I look back at pictures of myself I see that I never really was not a "fat kid"; I was just bigger than the other kids. Being told I was fat by my peers made me think I was fat. I would identify myself as a fat person for the rest of my childhood. When I was a teenager I didn't care. I was fat; it was who I was, so why change it. So, I escaped into food, overeating and the indoors.

Now here I am sitting next to my 5 year old child, whom is also big for his age and trying to figure out why he wants to be fat too. When I look at him I am seeing the boy I used to be. I don't want to tell him that he can't be like me so what do I say? That is when I realize that his future is in my hands. Not because I control his food and exercise but because I am his example. If I can't live a life of good health and fitness then he will become that fat kid my childhood friends thought I was.

What can we as fathers (and mothers) do to fight childhood obesity? It is quite simple: Be a better example. Of course, this saying goes with many different situations. Don't want you kids to smoke: Don't smoke. Want you kids to go to church: Go to church. If you want your kids to be healthy and fit then you most live the same life. Even if you are naturally skinny your kids may not be so lucky so don't think you can eat a whole pizza around them and have them ignore it and only eat a little. They will see you doing it and think it is OK to wolf down a Little Caesars Hot & Ready on a Saturday night after playing video games for 9 hours straight. Go to the gym or take them for walks and tell them you are walking to be healthy. In the end, it isn't about how much weight you have lost or how much smaller you have become; it is about how you are living your life. They will see it and they will follow you.