Lessons from Camp Jedi

Those aren’t Stormtroopers, they’re just avoiding mosquitoes.

Happy Summer! (Almost, technically). Even though the actual solstice is still a few days away, we are three weeks into summer vacation here in Georgia. Lovely, hot, mosquito-ridden summer vacation. With a side of stomach flu last week. Ugh!

With the exception of a few hours of camp, Fozzie and Skywalker are both home with me for pretty much the entire month of June, and we’ve enjoyed medieval weapon-filled trips to the Renaissance festival and walks in the woods that turned sticks into weapons. When it’s too hot and buggy to be outside, we are all Lego Star Wars video games and staged light saber battles all the time. It’s pretty much Camp Jedi in my world.

With two active young boys close in age, I find myself saying things I wouldn’t have imagined just a few years ago.

“Only hit the other person’s light saber, not the other person. Is that what Obi-Wan would do to his brother?”

“Water bottles are not weapons. Books are not weapons. Cheese is not a weapon.”

“Stop shooting each other and eat breakfast.”

“Get your shoes on. Take you shoe out of your mouth. Take your shoe out of your brother’s mouth. Your shoes go on your feet. Now you have them on the wrong feet. Those are the wrong shoes. Don’t hit your brother with the shoe.”

“Your brother is not a pillow. Your brother is not a trampoline. You can both be Darth Vader if you want to be. Get your brother’s face out of the carpet.”

“If you can’t agree on the rules for jousting, we will have to put the jousting set away. Don’t throw jousting toys at Mommy.”

“Quick, grab the bowl. He just threw up in my hair, and on my shirt. Aaaaand on my pillow.”

“If we can’t decide fairly who gets to be which Paw Patrol pup we will have to play something else.”

“If we can’t decide fairly whether the minivan is an Imperial Star Destroyer or an AT-AT that can transform into a snow speeder, we will have to play something else.”

“Can we not use any variation of the word “poop” at the dinner table, please?”

“If you can’t stop arguing about it, I will take it away or separate you two or we’ll stop talking about whatever it is.”

“I am going to say it one last time: No more naked gun fighting.

So… that’s pretty much my life right now. From a parent’s perspective, it’s astonishing how many things two siblings can find to fight about. They fight about what they said, what they did, whose thing that is and whether it’s okay for the other one to use it. They fight about what they meant by what they said and who hit who first and should therefore be in more trouble. They fight over the color of their cereal bowls.

It’s also funny how different siblings are with each other than with classmates and friends. Away from home, Skywalker is normally so mild-mannered when it comes to interacting with other kids (besides his brother), I sometimes worry that he might not assert himself if he is being picked on or taken advantage of. Or get so frustrated that he’s not being heard that he throws a tantrum instead of negotiating fairly.

We got to see it all play out at Skywalker’s swim meet the other night, when he was throwing around a nerf football with some of his little swim team buddies. Even though he’s a bit younger, Fozzie wanted to play so badly that he hung around, picking up the ball whenever he could and throwing it to the other boys. At one point, one of the other boys Skywalker’s age snatched the football from Fozzie and said, “you can’t play, you’re little.” (If he’d ever seen Fozzie in action, he might not have been so cavalier, but I digress…)

I was a few feet away, watching to see how the boys would handle it before I intervened. Sure enough, Skywalker went up to the other boy and calmly but forcefully took the football back. “Hey, you can’t do that. He’s my brother and he wants to play, too.” He handed it to Fozzie, who stepped back and threw it to the other kid. And all was well.

Wisdom sometimes comes in small packages…

I don’t care how many ribbons he wins (or doesn’t) for swimming this year. That moment made damn proud of my kid. I hope he would do the same for another child, too, but standing up for your brother is a pretty good start.

Someone once told me that you should always walk away from a fight for yourself, but always stand and fight for others. I try to do that myself, but the things that seem so simple at five sometimes feel less clear as adults. We stand back and let people attack the weak, the different, and the marginalized (usually out of ignorance and fear). Sometimes it’s in our Facebook feed, sometimes it’s at the bar or the coffee house or Sunday school.

Maybe it’s because we’re less clear about things than we were when we were little, before we started thinking of our social networks as a knotted web of potential social and career repercussions. Before fears about “rocking the boat” (or, personally, “selling fewer books”) held sway. Whatever it is, when my addled grown up brain gets confused, I’m grateful for the little role model I have right here at home.

Maybe minus the naked gun fighting part.

MJ Pullen

M.J. Pullen is a Distracted Writer and the mom of two boys in Roswell, Georgia, where she is absolutely late for something important right now. Her books include quirky romantic comedies and playful women's fiction -- her latest, SUGAR STREET released on 8/7/18. Join her Distracted Readers newsletter list for updates, free content, giveaways and more.

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