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A Father Must Train a Young Jedi. And That Requires Popcorn.

As a 40-something child of the galaxy far, far away, I wasn’t able to contain my geeky glee as the build-up to The Force Awakens began. Little E, nearing four years old and wise beyond her years, seemed equally enthralled.

When the commercials came on, she would stop what she was doing: “Dadda! Look! Star Wars! You love Star Wars!” She began carrying a Stormtrooper lunch box to school. She learned to identity Darth Vader and Yoda on sight. One afternoon, after being sent to her room for some minor offense, she made her reappearance wearing a Chewbacca shirt and quietly whispered in my ear that she couldn’t wait to see Star Wars with me.

I would’ve bought her a car on the spot, but a movie ticket seemed like the more prudent choice.

I knew that the seventh installment in the Star Wars film series, what with its marauding Stormtroopers and space battles, were several light years out of Little E’s Octonaut-filled comfort zone. It didn’t matter. One chilly afternoon, we bundled up and headed to the cineplex.

Deep down I knew she was only there for the popcorn, but on some level I hoped this might be a real bonding experience. I was just about her age when I saw the original in 1977 with my mom back in Arkansas. This was more than a movie—it was a family tradition.

The lightning flash of brass that announced the opening scroll jarred Little E. She snuggled up to me as the camera panned down to some strange desert planet. The new baddie, dressed all in black and growling, made his appearance, and while at first Little E tried to shield her eyes, she was quickly won over by his crackling red light saber. This might actually end up being a pinnacle parenting moment!

Forty-five minutes into the movie, I started noticing another dad sitting closer to the screen fighting a losing battle with a fidgeting toddler girl. She kept yammering and squirming and climbing the railing. Dad seemed frustratingly ambivalent. His cinema neighbors were becoming visibly annoyed.

Little E, meanwhile, was totally tranquil. A straight up angel curled up in my lap, making no sound or movement, breathing deeply. It was almost as if she was…yep. She was asleep. Absolutely and utterly out and oblivious to the destruction of entire planetary systems playing out loudly and proudly on the screen.

By the time she woke up, the men in the tiny spaceships were raining down laser beams on this new Death Star rip-off, and although she wasn’t whiny or sad about it, Little E asked if we could go home.

So well before the end credits rolled, we took off into the sunlight, back to our own galaxy. I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, as we made the short walk home, I was proud of her. Sitting still for an hour of entertainment that didn’t include singing animals or overly perky humans was quite the feat. Best of all, even though she barely made it through half the movie, she still talks about that rolling robot and the “mean man in the black dress.”

Sure, our first attempt at an official Star Wars bonding experience was basically a wash, but for a four-year-old, she came pretty dang close. And besides, with films planned for each of the next six years, there’s still plenty of time for me to embarrass myself (and her) in the right good name of the Force.

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