I do take my children to more “cultural” activities, I really do, but last weekend, I needed a family outing, to which I could actually convince my husband to accompany me, that also takes into account the fact that I have two six year old boys. They are interested primarily in two things—fast vehicles, fighting and weapons.
Thus, we found ourselves at Star Wars the Exhibition in Madrid last Saturday. Unfortunately, all the places for Jedi school had already been filled up until later in the evening. Naturally, this invalidated all our bribes of the morning—“If you don’t stop fighting with your brother, pick up your clothes, brush your teeth, etc. You won’t be going to Jedi school. Only the worthy padawans make it to Jedi status, and so on...If you plan to attend this exhibit with your children, reserve ahead for Jedi school.
I honestly wasn’t expecting much, maybe some old props or vintage 1970s Star Wars dolls, but actually the exhibition was very well put together. What impressed me the most, was how much more money, resources, and technology had been poured into telling you the story of the fictitious world of the six Star Wars movies, than a really good exhibit like King Tut and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. The latter was acceptable to the boys because it involved mummies and tombs; we saw it the last time we were in Atlanta. Sadly, the boys know far more about Tatooine than they do about Egyptian antiquity.
As far as what was interesting to me, as an adult, two things really—the concept drawings for the movies produced by various illustrators, miniature set mock-ups and the story boards where you see the stage and filming directions (High angle camera, “Darth Vader falls into the void”) with a corresponding cartoon like-drawing. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into the creative process that produced at least 2 (in my mind) masterpieces. And even if the prequel movies weren’t my cup of tea (nor “Return of the Jedi” after age 15 or so), I still had to admire the creativity and ingenuity that went into producing all those special effects and stunning visuals--quirky little details such as the fact that falling grains of salt mimic falling water, which is how they filmed the “waterfall” on Princess Amidala’s home planet.
What I did not anticipate was the ambush on the way out.
Unfortunately, it did not occur to me to negotiate with my husband how we were going to get past the gift store. My husband and I have different philosophies on various issues of parenting. I remember, as a child, feeling that a battery-operated light-up light sabre (that I didn’t have) was probably the one thing standing between me and official Jedi-hood. However, later, as an adult, I decided that delayed gratification and having to work for things might not have been so bad. My parenting ambition at this point is to “Not raise brats.”
I had my line ready: “Your treat was getting taken to this exhibit. As for the gift store, you’ll get nothing and like it.”
My husband’s approach, on the other hand, tends towards “What would I have wanted as a six year old?” A big ass light sabre, the Clone Wars 2.5 blu-ray, the Clone Warrior costume with better quality made-in-China mask (as opposed to the one that rips apart after two wearings), the latest Star Wars PS3 videogame and so on. Forget that my boys have already broken 4 “official” Star Wars light sabers whose technological bells and whistles put my 1970s desiderata to shame. Forget that they already have 2 clone warrior costumes and one Darth Vadar costume (albeit with the cheapy masks that didn’t last).
At some point, the children realized they were going to get some of what they wanted, but not everything. Witness the power of the Dark Side taking over. My children, while tolerable on an individual basis, tend to descend into the worst sort of snarling, yelping wolf pack behavior when together, preferably at moments calculated to cause maximum embarrassment to their parents. They starting tearing around the store, wildly pointing to things, letting out howls of “I Waaaaaaaaan’t” and fighting among each other, assuming that whatever the one got was going to subtract from the other’s loot. In short, complete mayhem. I have never been so ashamed. Meanwhile, the Spanish children at the store stood quietly waiting in line to get the 1 euro pen or 10 euro souvenir book their parents had promised them.
Afterwards, I discussed this with a friend, whose parenting philosophies I admire. She had the following good advice for how to handle the gift store ambush next time. “Give them each a budget of 10 euros at the store. That way they learn what things cost and, if they want something that’s worth more, they have to work together and decide how they’re going to pool their resources.”