“The Force Is What Binds Us”: One Mom Uses the Greatest Power in the Galaxy to Connect With Her Son

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(This is a guest post from Peggy Gilpatric, the mother of the boy who wrote to George Lucas asking him to change the rule that Jedis can’t marry. GeekDad Randy Slavey wrote up that story last spring.)

We stood behind the white line as they led him to the training area, his Jedi robe dragging on the floor behind him. I had my reservations about him attending Jedi Training Academy, even if it was just the one a Disneyland instead of in a galaxy far, far away. I thought that it might be too much for Colin. He had trouble following directions. He lacked the fine motor skills to engage his lightsaber. I knew he would get frustrated. Maybe it was the Star Wars fan in me, but autism or no autism, I believed that he could do this.

So, like a good Jedi mom, I stayed behind the white line with the other parents. A padawan helper noticed my youngling’s distress and came to his aide. He remained by his side until it was time to battle Vader. My son stood there, tiny and wide-eyed, and made wild swings at the Dark Lord. After it was over, another Star Wars fan was born. Colin was a Jedi and no one could tell him any different.

Photo: Peggy Gilpatric
Photo: Peggy Gilpatric

To a Star Wars fan, there is nothing more exciting than introducing your kid to the trilogy. This was made much more exciting by the fact that we had been living in Elmo’s World for about three years and it was making Hoth look like a great vacation destination. If you MUST watch something a million times then, for the love of Kenobi’s ghost, let it be Empire.

This was all great fun, but soon we began to realize that this was more than just a great way to geek out with our kid. Colin always had trouble expressing himself and understanding emotions when expressed by others. Slowly his dad and I began to notice a change. He didn’t just watch the movies, he pored over books. I caught him writing in a book with a marker.

The literature lover in me cringed until I saw what he was doing. On the page was a list of things that lead to the Dark Side. He was adding to it. I looked at his words under the portrait of Vader. They read, “being mean.” I asked him about it and he told me that if people were mean to him, he wouldn’t be sad because sadness also leads to the Dark Side. I explained to him the difference between a healthy sadness and an unhealthy sadness. He was starting to understand. It was all so encouraging that I even introduced Episodes 1-3 hoping for even more breakthroughs (all the while crossing my fingers that Jar Jar would not become the new Elmo in our lives).

The real trouble came when it became clear that, along with being a Jedi, Colin was a romantic. Colin became obsessed with Attack of the Clones, not for the action, but for the romance. Day after day, I had to watch Padme make bad choices. It was like reliving my early twenties. When he discovered that Jedi were forbidden to marry, he became obsessed with this injustice that he ended up writing to George Lucas.

Surprisingly enough, Lucasfilm responded, amending the rule just for him. I took a video of him opening the package from them and it actually went viral. You can watch the video and read more about that on my website.

Photo: Peggy Gilpatric
Photo: Peggy Gilpatric

As exciting as that might seem, there was more in store for us. I decided to let him watch Revenge of the Sith. I wonder if I should have listened when I heard Qui-Gon’s voice in the back of my head telling me to, “trust my instincts.” Colin knew that Anakin would become Vader, but the process was too much for him.

Anakin’s eyes began to yellow, and the moment the lava touched his skin, I watched my little boy’s heart split in two. He ran to the DVD player, hit eject, dropped some colorful expletives, then ran to the trash bin to throw in the disk. He then bolted to his room and cried. I suppose that would have been the time when any other mom would run to console her child by telling him that it was just a movie. Colin was seven years old. He had cried when he hurt himself. He had cried when he got mad. He had never cried from sadness.  As strange as it may sound, this was a gift.

Photo: Peggy Gilpatric
Photo: Peggy Gilpatric

There are many areas in which the autism community is divided. Some believe that we should not indulge our child when they become super focused on a special interest. It can be over-stimulating.

Perhaps the question is not, should we or shouldn’t we? Maybe we should ask ourselves to look deeper into why this is a special interest, and how can we use it as an opportunity to connect to them in a deeper way. After all…

“Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.” –Master Yoda

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