Saturday, June 11, 2011

Perils of Parenting

You want to believe somewhere in your heart of hearts that your child is a miniature you, only better. Like she got all your good qualities and all your interesting quirks, but none of the major hang-ups that have caused you so many problems throughout your life. And when she's very young, you can shape her interests to a degree. What you like, she likes, and what you don't, she often doesn't.

But then one day, you discover that she has somehow become an actual person while you were looking the other way. And on the one hand, it's inevitable and good, but on the other, it's sad.

What brought this on, you ask? Last week, I was watching my daughter for a day (one measure of how far I've cleaned up the mess from the Worst Mistake of My Life is that I was finally willing, after over two years, to let my daughter come into my house again--the house is far from clean, but I'm not too ashamed to let her in the door anymore), I decided to share with her one of the great treasures from my own childhood. I showed her the original Star Wars.

Okay, it wasn't the original, or the VHS version I have that's really close to the original. It was the Special Edition (ptooey!) which I have on DVD and which is mostly the original.

She got bored less than halfway through and stopped paying attention. After Ben Kenobi died, she looked up and wondered why Luke was sad; she had been doodling throughout the entire lightsaber duel. When they were tensely running down the Death Star trench, she briefly looked up and asked, "What are they doing?" having completely missed the significance of, well, every scene in the movie talking about how the Death Star was the ultimate enemy they had to destroy.

And it's not as if I expected her to have the same reaction I did. When I saw it, I was in a theater coming out of a period when any movie with a happy ending was considered a kid's movie. Movies were depressing and often incoherent. And special effects, even the good ones, were crude at best and usually just laughably awful. And the movies those effects featured in were usually stilted and boring until the brief shining moments when cool stuff happened.

Star Wars was different, fast-paced and funny with effects totally unlike anything I'd ever seen before. Without Star Wars, I would not have gone to the University of Southern California. The movie changed my entire life. It is not an understatement to say that it was, for me, a religious experience.

I didn't expect it to have the same effect on my daughter. To her, effects like that and even better are an everyday experience. And the movies she has seen have all been influenced by Star Wars to such an extent that it's no longer the unique experience it was for me. So no, I didn't expect her to speak in tongues after watching it. But I did expect it to at least hold her interest.

*sound of heart breaking*

But all is not lost. She came over again on Thursday, and I showed her Raiders of the Lost Ark. And that one, she not only watched all the way through, but really seemed to like (I'm super-duper hoping that she wasn't saying "awesome" just to keep from hurting my feelings). So yeah, there's hope.

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