don't pee in the millennium falcon
A long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away), my son DJ was a Star Wars geek. He was barely three the first time he saw A New Hope on tv and was immediately enthralled with the characters, the action and the sounds. He imitated R2D2 and — in what should have been a harbinger of things to come — idolized Darth Vader.
There was a Star Wars rejuvenation at this time, as Lucas, in the first of many steps he would take to wring dollar bills out of a decades old franchise, was re-releasing the trilogy in movie theaters. Maybe if I had know at the the time that there was a Jar-Jar in our future I would have curbed my son’s enthusiasm, but I instead reveled in it. My son, a Star Wars geek. It was a very proud moment for me, ranked right up there with the time he beat Sonic the Hedgehog 2 when he was three years old.
For his fourth birthday (and my daughter’s 7th) we threw a Star Wars themed party. The plethora of merchandise available that year made it easy to give the kids the geekiest party their friends had ever attended. Taco Bell Star Wars themed meals for everyone, a guest visit from Darth Vader, who did the limbo with my mother, and a giant pile of Star Wars toys as birthday loot.
DJ’s favorite present by far was a humongous replica of the Millennium Falcon, complete with flashing lights and sound effects. He played with this thing for hours at a time, taking figures from all his other sets — knights and pirates and various Disney characters — and put them in the Millenium Falcon. He would then have Han Solo boss them around. “Go wash the dishes, Pocahontas!” When I gave him a small lecture on equality he put Ariel in charge of the ewoks and had her throw them off the Millennium Falcon. Mid hyper-space. That’s my boy.
One day I walked into DJ’s bedroom and noticed a strange odor. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was, so I started looking around the room for moldy food or drink cups or small, dead animals. Finally, I was able to pinpoint where the smell was coming from.
The Millennium Falcon.
I looked into it, and could see a small flood had invaded its interior. Chewbacca was drowning. Han Solo and Pocahontas were silently floating together in a stream of…..of….
What the hell is that?
Piss? Piss in the Millennium Falcon? I just stood there a few minutes in state of disbelief. Then I went ballistic. I screamed, I yelled, I acted sufficiently horrified, all the while fighting the urge to let out this maniacal laugh. The laughter that comes from witnessing the absurd.
What would make a four year old boy pee into his favorite toy? Maybe he really had to go and couldn’t make it to the bathroom. Maybe he wanted to reenact the Poseidon Adventure with Chewbacca playing the Shelly Winters role. I know. Completely rhetorical question. Why do four year old boys do anything? Because they can.
DJ stood there watching me, a small grin playing around his mouth. He wanted to smile. He wanted to laugh. Hell, he wanted to get jiggy with it right there because his little antic served its purpose. He wanted a reaction. He got it.
I knew I had to get serious and say something profound and important. This was a teaching moment. One he needed to remember for the rest of his already wayward youth. I searched for the right words. I thought about all those group sessions I attended at the Mother’s Center where I learned lessons about “speaking from the I” and choosing the appropriate words for the situation. And what I did was say the first words that came into my head.
“Young man,” I said. “Do not pee in the Millennium Falcon!”
Silence. From both of us. I know how I sounded. I know he was trying not to laugh. But the more I thought about it the more I realized those words really did mean something.
I made him take the offending toy outside, hose it down and when we both realized the stink and grossness was just not going to go away, I made him throw his beloved Millennium Falcon in the garbage can.
I explained the gravity of the situation, telling him that “Don’t pee in the Millennium Falcon,” while sounding like something to laugh at, meant that he should not take things people give him and piss all over them, figuratively or literally. He needed to appreciate what he had or he was no longer going to have anything left to appreciate.
He gave me the sufficient amount of tears to think I made an impression. I patted myself on the back for so deftly mixing Star Wars and parenting.
A couple of days later, we went to Chucky Cheese’s. Punishment for parents, heaven for kids. Inside this particular Chucky’s they have one of those big, winding tunnels that the kids can crawl through and torment each other. It’s suspended about 8 feet above the rest of the play area and it’s basically impossible to get to the kids when you want to leave. Kids instinctively know this. They know that if they reach the top they can look down on all the grown-ups and no matter how many of those adults are saying “I mean it. It’s time to leave!” there’s nothing they can do about it unless they climb up there themselves and drag the kids out and most children know damn well their parents aren’t agile enough or eager to do that. Kids are bastards.
So before I sent my kids off to play in the giant hamster maze/ball pit, I read them the riot act. “Coming here is a privilege,” I explained. “When I say it’s time to go, we go. Or else.” You know. Or else. The worst parenting technique ever.
About two hours and four rounds of singing rat later, I decided it was time to go. I looked up and spotted my children. I give them the “Let’s get the hell out of this place” stare. They looked down from the opaque orange tube of kiddie hell. And responded by sticking their tongues out at me. I walked to the end of the tube slide, stuck my head in and yelled at them. They laughed. I said something about taking good things for granted. They laughed.
Fine. This is how it’s going to be.
I put my head a little farther into the tube and yelled into what became an echo chamber: “DO NOT PEE IN THE MILLENNIUM FALCON!”
Heads turned. The place went quiet. I think the guy in the rat costume stopped singing mid birthday song. Everyone stared. Two seconds later, my kids were down the slide and in their coats.
Don’t pee in the Millennium Falcon. They knew what I meant.
25 years later, I still remind DJ of our “golden rule” every once in a while. Sometimes to make a point, sometimes just to embarrass him.
He’s no longer into Star Wars. He can’t even do a good R2D2 impersonation anymore. But he’ll always remember the Millennium Falcon.