My son Dylan is a lot like me. He’s curious and creative. His imagination is completely indistinguishable from his personality. He lives in a world of his own creating and, if we’re lucky enough, we get a glimpse inside. His older brother is smart and accomplished. His younger sister is the princess. When he ‘plays’ Star Wars, he isn’t just pretending. He becomes Luke Skywalker or Han Solo, he embodies them.
Dylan is a smart little boy who learns a little differently than others. You listen to him read out loud and it sounds choppy and staccato. You ask him what he just read and he can recite it. He understands it. He questions it. Last week, we read a book together about the experiences of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a young man, how he had a white friend whose parents, suddenly, told him he was no longer allowed to play with young Martin. We talked about the book and then sat down with the family for dinner. A week later, Dylan asked me if I thought both Dr. King and his friend were sad about being unable to play together.
He had been thinking about it somewhere in his mind for a week.
Dylan is smart and sensitive and most of his thinking happens inside his head. For everything he says, every question he asks, it’s clear there are hundreds of others he keeps to himself. As an adult, I’m sure this will be invaluable. As a little boy with a ‘perfect’ big brother and a ‘princess’ of a sister, it means that sometimes, he can get a little emotional suddenly and without warning.
It’s hard to be the middle child.
We were eating dinner last night and Jack said something funny, pronouncing the word ‘for’ as ‘fur.’ We had a laugh. Jack laughed along. A few minutes later, Dylan said ‘wutch’ when he meant ‘which’ and we all laughed again. Except him. He thought we were making fun of him. We weren’t, but in his mind a switch had been thrown, something that happens sometimes after a long day at school and at home.
“Why don’t you take Dylan and Penny (our dog) for a walk?” my wife suggested. There’s no reason to punish a little boy for an emotional response. Talk to him. Change the scenario, get him out of his head.
So we bundled up, put Penny on the leash and headed out into the night. At first, we talked about school, about his friends, about him looking forward to baseball season – his favorite time of the year. We left the neighborhood and turned right. I pointed out the stars and he looked up. I saw Orion’s Belt. He saw the Shuttle Tydirium descended to earth, landing Darth Vader in the parking lot of his school. Like a lot of kids his age these days, Star Wars is a whole new world to explore. And for the next 20 minutes, we had a conversation with the evil Sith Lord, trying to reason with him, give him hope for a life beyond the Dark Side.
“We can take you down into our workshop and figure out a way for you to breath without your helmet,” Dylan said to the imaginary Vader.
“You and Luke can live in the basement until you can save enough money for a house of your own. And then you can be our neighbors. Sure, Obi Wan cut off both of your legs and and one of your arms, but we fix that. And you can come to my baseball games.”
It went on like that as we rounded back into the neighborhood and down into our street. Dylan, with his beautiful mind and deep imagination, talking to Darth Vader and Obi Wan as if they could be friends. Me playing along, falling in love all over again with this little boy’s beautiful brain.
By the time we got home, he had forgotten all about what had him upset. He had moved on. He hugged me when we got inside, thanked me for taking him on a walk and for playing along.
“That was fun,” he said as he ran in to tell his mom and siblings about our conversation.
It wasn’t just fun, though. It was the best part of my day.
The featured image on this blog post is from: http://r2decals.bigcartel.com/product/vader-walking-at-at
A very cool site worth checking out.