Flashback Blog: Fatherhood

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that one of the most fulfilling aspects of my life has been fatherhood. I wanted to have kids ever since my cousin gave birth to her first son, and as I’ve said before, I know that I was called to be a father.

But was it always that way? Once again because blogs.starwars.com is getting shut down, I dug out this old one about Fatherhood. I wrote it shortly after the birth of my first child, and it proves the following things authoritatively:

  1. I am a huge nerd;
  2. Blogging has always been an outlet;
  3. I can relate anything back to Star Wars (See Item 1);
  4. The girls were always doomed to become proto-nerds; and
  5. I worked this out later, and more academically, in another blog years later.

So, it’s kind of fun to view this in the context of an “early draft” and the later one is a “director’s cut.” Or, since it’s Star Wars related, a Special Edition.

Flashback Blog: Fatherhood

Originally published at blogs.starwars.com/kesseljunkie on March 9, 2007

Vader Emperor
This is the image I used on the original blog. Strangely, the Lucas archives never seem to highlight the father/daughter thing with Leia and Vader. (Credit: Lucasfilm, 2005, who will probably sue me eventually)

So much can be said about fatherhood. The emotions it stirs within you, the first stunning realizations of real responsibility for someone other than yourself, the humbling part you play in the process of bringing life into this world. A process, mind you, that science still struggles to figure out.

Here is a life, programmed from the first moment of cell division, that simply started nine months ago from nothing more than a set of blueprints and basic proteins smaller than you can ever hope to see with your eye. The odds against it happening alone are enough to make you shudder before the world and realize what a tremendous task has been placed before you to raise this child.

In modern times, there is a mingling of certain responsibilities between mothers and fathers. I stay up with the baby and let mommy sleep. I help cook or do dishes. I change diapers, and was in the room when the baby was delivered. Hell, I held one of her legs and helped her count through contractions while just a generation ago, fathers were forbidden by law to do anything but sit in waiting rooms.

The role of the father remains the same as it has throughout history, though. It’s seemingly overlooked and undervalued by many in the modern world, but the core role of the the father to provide protection and guidance. This is how it has been since the dawn of society; the mother nurtures and the father protects.

Again, before one of you hyper-sensitive, knee-jerk, bed-wetting dolts goes nuts, there is a mingling of certain responsibilities, and I am glad there are. I embrace the idea of changing diapers and consoling her when she is upset. I love the concept of actually caring for her. It’s a struggle for me even to put her down or give her over to someone else to hold her.

All of this got me to thinking about the father/child roles that are explored in the Star Wars saga. I read in an autobiography that Mr. Lucas had a strained relationship with his father, and I know that he is a father himself. And he very clearly explores these themes in his saga.

The Vader/Luke/Leia plot line is a bit obvious, but it’s there: they struggle with the sins of the father, but Luke looks for the good in him even after learning of the father’s shortcomings. It is a child’s love that is the restorative power of the world to Lucas, and that feels right. If your child can accept your humanity and love you still, then that is the best healing there can ever be.

But the prequels are a very different examination. We see the father role played for Anakin by many different men, and we see what a damaging influence it is for him not to have a consistent guide through his life.

First is Qui-Gon, the first real “father” in his life (I don’t count Watto). He is a patient, kind man who never raises his voice and takes every opportunity to teach a lesson. He keeps Anakin by his side always, and in his short time teaches Anakin to use his talents; he also has a well-spring of belief in the child’s special nature and the need to help him grow in it. Sadly, as quickly as he enters Anakin’s life, he is gone.

We are left to wonder, if Qui-Gon had survived, would he have presented a better template, a more consistent vision, that could have guided Anakin to better choices? Would he have made the same choices, or would he have felt more of a responsibility to follow Qui-Gon’s teachings?

This brings us to Palpatine and Obi-Wan. These are two very different father figures who vie for influence over Anakin simultaneously, which results in what could be called mixed signals.

Palpatine is a task master and teacher, who sees Anakin as a tool for his own aggrandizement and growth; sort of like a parent who wants their kid to become an actor because they always wanted to be an actor. He is also the father as aggressor, teaching his “son” that the only way to get what you want is to take it by sheer force and will.

Obi-Wan is the young father, not quite ready for the responsibility and more suited to a brother role. He was a great friend and partner, but a terrible guide, because he was too indulgent with Anakin, and still working out his own issues. Being more of a contemporary – the young parent – Obi-Wan struggles to gain the same respect from Anakin that is given to Mace Windu or Yoda; in Padme’s apartment, Anakin acknowledges Obi-Wan’s skills but plainly regards him as more of an equal and in some ways, a lesser. You almost have to wonder if Lucas is looking at the dangers of having kids before you are ready, or truly established in your own life and career.

Throughout the series you see other father/child roles as well. Jango and Boba are the ideal father and son to many men – the child becomes a duplicate of the father, never straying from his teachings. Dooku is the errant child who wanted to show his “father” (Yoda) how much better he was. Owen is the overbearing father who is so disillusioned, he doesn’t want the boy to waste time on dreams that, to him, could never come true. The Rancor was the obedient son, destroying enemies of the family. (That’s a joke.)

And Anakin? He would have been a bad father, even if he had not turned to the Dark Side. Let’s face it, he was too irresponsible to be a father. His first thoughts were consistently of himself. How did he handle obligation? By consistently doing what he wanted, not what was right or necessary. Parenthood is supposed to be about the surrender of self. Seriously. I do not matter so much as an individual as in how I can help and benefit my child; she is my only mark to leave on the future.

Luke and Leia probably wound up as well-adjusted as they did because he was not in their lives. In his place, they at least got surrogate fathers who understood the concepts of duty and responsibility. For all his flaws, Owen provided stability and safety for Luke. From what we can gather, Bail showered Leia with love and showed her how to make a difference in the world.

So which of these fathers will I be? Easy answer: none of them. Because while Star Wars can delve into the themes, it is itself a work of fiction. I’m thankful that I learned some lessons from them growing up, but this little girl is her own unique challenge and I am her own unique father. We’ll make our own lessons – and our own mistakes – together.

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