Friday, March 11, 2016

The Force Awakens

The children are obsessed with Star Wars. For that matter: the husband is obsessed with Star Wars. He and I saw #7  in the theaters and this started a tidal wave of hunting down the original three (4, 5, 6) and resurrecting the second trilogy (1, 2, 3). My chronological training in Star Wars is complete.

Our three children make multiple light sabers a day. Frankie calls them "light savers." Star Wars character roles are divvied out: Audrey is Leia, Sean is Luke, and Frankie is Yoda. Which makes sense, right? Frankie is short, so she is assigned the seat of wisdom. Hers is the character that molds and culls the force in others. Frankie calls herself "Yoga" and when I try to correct her, she never capitulates.

me: His name is Yoda.
Frankie: No. YOga.

One day the force was so powerful that they combined all their legos into one Jedi fleet. Sean brought out every lego set he has and Audrey enlisted the help of her girl-branded legos. They created worlds upon worlds where their characters fought the dark side and it was not uncommon to hear a distressed voice playing out some near death experience or brush with Darth Vader. (Frankie speak: Dark Vader.)

Frankie: Oh no! Are you ok?
Audrey: (calling to another character) I know the force is still strong in you!

The force is especially strong inside Audrey. The force is strong inside all three of them, make no mistake. Both a good force of love, compassion, and innocence, as well as a sense for right and wrong, justice, and even a force of anger.  Each of our children displays a fiery temper from time to time. Especially as they are learning to be their own person, making decisions apart from what Tom and I want them to do, they are fiery.

This winter has been a forceful challenge for Audrey. The revelation that her stomach aches were due to an egg allergy has led to a much needed but difficult nutrition overhaul. It's paying off, the stomach aches are subsiding. Yet she's struggled to figure out what things she can choose to eat on her own, and what things need to be checked by a parent. She doesn't like the label checking, but she abides it because she sees the benefit in her physical pain level.

Undoubtedly this is the reason we've seen difficult behaviors from Audrey. One evening after a stormy back and forth about taking a bath, shampooing hair, getting on pajamas and toothbrushing, everything stopped for a heart-to-heart between us and Audrey. We called out her choices, talked about the impact on our family with all of her arguing. As she struggled to hear us, Tom recalled a Native American story to better illustrate. He told Audrey how some people believe that a battle (much like the battle of good and evil in Star Wars) is raging inside people. This internal battle is between two wolves.

"one is evil. it is anger,
envy, jealousy, sorrow,
regret, greed, arrogance,
self-pity, guilt, resentment,
inferiority, lies, false pride,
superiority, and ego.

the other is good.
it is joy, peace love, hope, serenity,
humility, kindness, benevolence,
empathy, generosity,
truth, compassion and faith."

I could see Audrey trying to understand how wolves could be inside her. If such a thing were true, where could she find these wolves, and what did it mean? Tom explained that when people wonder which wolf wins this internal battle, it's whichever one you feed. It was an inspired moment from her theologian father, a moment when Audrey really grappled with buying into and acting upon her anger and jealousy. He told Audrey that we all have to think about which wolf we are feeding with our actions. How what we believe about ourselves begins to come true in the real world: a self-fulfilling prophesy. Tom successfully (even if just for a moment) put the ball back in Audrey's court - to believe that she had control over who she is in this world and which wolf she decides to feed.

I have come back to this analogy a lot with Audrey. She seems to get it. The image of wolves is more immediate for her than the intergalactic warfare of Star Wars. In the midst of intense emotions when I've stopped and reminded Audrey about choosing which wolf she feeds, many times this tale of two wolves has called her back from being more argumentative and obstinate. She's been able to articulate things that upset her, and use her voice to explain that she wants things to be different.

The tale of two wolves has not, however, stopped the playing of Star Wars around the house. As they play out their characters, the kids learn that each character has some strengths and weaknesses. For example playing Yoda comes with a downside: that gravelly voice of wisdom starts to hurt the throat after awhile. Playing Leia is risky because her long capes are held together with a kitchen chip clip: the whole cape/chip clip must be abandoned in order to perform well in a light saber battle. Luke frequently is called into battle even when his introverted nature wants a break. Strangely, no one ever wants to play Obi-wan Kenobi (or "Obee BoBee"). So when Tom plays with them, he is assigned that role. The ultimate wisdom coming from their father: the contemplative, the professor.

So often I worry that I'm too hard on our kids, that their fiery nature is a response to me expecting too much from them. Yet Star Wars has clarified something for me. Perhaps for all my guilt about being too hard on them, I continue to feed the better wolf inside me: the wolf of compassion, hope, benevolence, and truth. I try not to read too much into their character assignment for me: C-3PO. For whatever my failings, my kids accurately see me stumbling and bumbling through parenthood. "A being programmed for etiquette and protocol... who develops a fussy and worry-prone personality" (thanks, Wikipedia!). Or as I like to think about it: a rule-following, problem solver who has to run to keep up with the likes of these three brave Jedi.