Nothing could be more predictable these days then to write about Christmas, and I was ready and willing to warmly embrace predictability. It’s my favorite time of year, and I’m the father of a three-year-old daughter: Christmas is on my mind 24/7, probably since August, maybe late July.
Ready and willing I was, yet unable. My mind drew blank after blank. No Christmas topic seemed extraordinary enough to warrant more than a fleeting thought. Not the trippy illumination at Midtown, not Hana’s changing mood concerning Christmas gifts (a car! no, Hello Kitty’s House! no, a princess dress! no, a car!), not her obsession with 7-Eleven’s Christmas cake advertisements, not Shimajiro’s annual on-stage Christmas extravaganza that we were blessed to attend in person, not the fake German Christmas markets that are even more fake than the German Christmas markets in Germany.
It seems I was Christmassed out before Christmas. I blame the toy sections of Tokyo’s department stores and malls, where Hana and I spend several afternoons a week, regardless of season, and where the mood is merry and bright all year round. We must pass through those sections to get to the stores’ play areas. I could take my daughter to play at the community center, which is closer, cozier and free, but I don’t want to over-impose on our community. At the center, Hana goes off like a mom-seeking missile, attaching herself to other kids’ parental guardians, never letting go once her targets show the slightest friendly response. After playtime, she usually insists on going home with them, and that’s where even the friendliest moms draw the line.
So, instead we go to the mall, where things are a bit more anonymous. My wife often expresses her appreciation for me making the extra effort to take Hana to the suburbs, where the cool stores are, instead of staying in the neighborhood, harassing local moms. I always reply that it’s not a burden at all, since it gives me the opportunity to have a casual look at the newest Star Wars toys. I say that jokingly, since I don’t intend to buy any Star Wars toys. Okay, half-jokingly. A certain percentage of jokingly.
You can’t escape Star Wars these days. When I think of Christmas, I think of Santa Claus. When I think of Santa Claus, I think of Luke Skywalker. Which brings me to one of the most pressing questions in modern parenting: When is the right time to expose your child to Star Wars?
Star Wars is very much like a foreign language: Easy to pick up when you are young, much harder the older you get. From a certain age, the human brain simply cannot process it anymore without prior exposure. My wife finally gave in and watched her first Star Wars movie in her early 40s, and she was sound asleep before they even reached Mos Eisley. We never talked about it again.
I don’t mind not sharing Star Wars with my wife. Sometimes it’s good to have something just for yourself, and I guess Star Wars is better than pornography. Still, I would like to share my passion with my daughter one day. I think we are getting there, slowly. When she was just becoming able to understand multiple-choice questions, I once asked her: “What do you like better: Fish or horses?” With conviction she answered: “Yoda!” Earlier she had found my Yoda figure. She had asked me what it was, so I had to tell her everything about Yoda-sensei. Later she got really good at sticking rice in his ears.
Recently I tried to introduce her to another character from the Star Wars universe. I took one of her plastic buckets, held it in front of my mouth, breathed heavily, and informed her with an authoritative voice: “I am your father!” To my delight, she did not scream: “NOOO!!!”, but began imitating me, mastering the words and tone in no time at all.
When we were ready to proudly perform our new trick for my wife, Hana took the bucket, breathed heavily, then said casually: “Hello, I’m a bicycle.”
I suppose she still has some time to fully get it. I will probably work the princess angle next. After Christmas.
Main Image: MeskPhotography / Shutterstock.com