Today you get to hear from Mike (Dada to the kids) as he elaborates on the highly entertaining Star Wars bedtime stories he tells our kids every night!
One thing that Emma, Johnny, and Lily all have in common is that they love Star Wars—which is really fun for me, since I really love Star Wars too. The story has fascinated four generations of my family and has inspired hours and hours of drawing, Legos, and play in our house.
Like most parents, we have had some difficulty in getting our kids to go to bed. But, now they are doing much better, and we have a bit of a routine. After MaryAnne plays the guitar and sings to them, I’ve been telling them a bedtime story out in the hall between the two bedrooms. They aren’t content anymore with our collection of children’s stories; they want me to create stories on-demand, ideally with themselves as the main protagonists. I feel for those cartoonists who have to try to come up with a funny storyline every day for the newspaper. It is sometimes difficult to come up with fresh, interesting stories right on the spot. But, it is made so much easier with a little help from our Star Wars friends. Here’s my strategy:
- I spend a few minutes during the day, or right before the story, thinking about the things the kids are worried, anxious, or excited about (such as going to the dentist)—or some skill or attribute that they need to develop (like sharing, understanding what are choking hazards, cleaning up, taking care of younger siblings, or being brave). Then, I work it into the story.
- The story does not have to be complex or rely on the various literary devices you find in Shakespeare or Dickens. To impress our 7, 5, and 3 year-olds, I just need to make it surprising, funny, and memorable. This is amazingly easy to do if you simply inject Yoda, Darth Vader, or Storm Troopers into ordinary situations. Lily likes the story where she was playing hide-and-go-seek, and hid under a picnic table only to find Yoda hiding from George Lucas. Emma likes the story where she shared a churro with Yoda at Costco. Johnny likes the one where he was drawing Yoda and AT-AT Walkers, and Emma and Lily jumped into his drawing (kind of like C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader).
- The most important rule when using Star Wars characters in bedtime stories is that they are not bad guys. You can use whatever character you want, even Darth Vader or the Emperor known for hideous atrocities, but they cannot be evil. They can make bad choices (like not cleaning up their mess or being grumpy), but they can’t be scary. Otherwise, the kids won’t sleep.
- Well, “no bad guys” is probably the only rule. There is quite a bit of leeway otherwise. It’s just fine for Padme and Vader to take their kids Leia and Luke to Disneyland. It’s okay for Jango Fett to go Trick-or-Treating with Luke Skywalker—though, Johnny suggested that I probably meant Boba Fett.
- Bonus points are obtained for speaking like the characters. I found, in high school during the re-release of Star Wars, that I can do a pretty good Yoda voice, not too far off from that of Frank Oz. It takes a little practice to rearrange word orderings to make a convincing Yoda, but it is not hard. My vocal skills have not really expanded beyond Yoda. I’m trying to work on my C-3PO and Chewbacca—on my own in the car on the way to work, since I don’t think it’s at a point where I’m comfortable enough to test it on my kids yet.
- Feel free to add characters as necessary. The kids really enjoyed the invention of Yoda’s wife Yoma, and their four kids: Yoemma, Yojohn, Yolily, and Yoanna. (Of course, the Jedi Order prohibits marriage, but the rules can be bent for bedtime stories.)
- Kids like recurring themes. So, a few things happen often in these stories. Baby Anna spits up (for example, on a Storm Trooper when he picks her up). Baby Anna says “Ga ga goo goo” in response to a serious question from Darth Vader or the like. That always makes the kids crack up.
- All stories end with the kids going to sleep in their beds. I often get a little bit absorbed in the story, and go on and on, but it is pretty easy to wrap it up with a run-on sentence like “the three kids decided to return home from the Dagobah system because it was getting late, and so they jumped in the Millennium Falcon, zoomed back to Earth, crawled into their beds, and went to sleep.” At the end, Lily adds, “just like us.”
After I started telling my kids these stories, MaryAnne’s sister pointed me to Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown. It isn’t a story book, but it’s a collection of absolutely hilarious comics, and the kids enjoyed it just as much as me. The follow on story, Vader’s Little Princess is available on pre-order from Amazon and will be coming out on April 23.
Are there Star Wars fans in your house?