The door opens and he is off. Running at break-neck speed he is in his own world, fighting the bad guys and doing his Jedi Knight duty. In the grocery store, through the mall, down the hall at a hotel, or just down the sidewalk, they are everywhere and need to be stopped. He is the boy to do it. Wearing his brown Jedi cloak with Light Sabers at the ready, he is going to bring justice and peace to this world.
This is the world my 5 year old lives in and has for the last few years. I didn't realize when I said, “Hey buddy, I have a new movie for you to watch”, what that would mean. I set up “The Phantom Menace” for him to watch and went to sew. A little while into the movie, he came bursting into my sewing room saying, “MOM! Obi Wan just killed Darth Maul!”. I replied, “I know honey. Is your movie done yet?” “NO! I just HAD to tell you!”. He then disappeared into the play room to unearth the blue light saber he got for his second birthday. “MOM! Where is my light saber??? I have to be Obi Wan!”. We searched through the mounds of toys and eventually found it. He tore off upstairs to finish watching his movie. A little while later, he returned, light saber in hand and a wee bit starry eyed, looked at me and sighed, “When I grow up I want to be a Jedum Knight”.
This is not the first time my sweet boy has had an alter ego. No, the first time was when he was 2. He decided that he was Roo, I was Kanga, Daddy was Tigger and his baby sister (still in the womb) was to be Pliget (no, I didn't type that wrong, that is how he said it). He would answer to nothing other than Roo and refused to call us anything other than Kanga and Tigger. In fact, on the aforementioned Light Saber, it actually says Roo. We needed to mark it so we knew which one was his when we went to visit his cousins, and he insisted on it saying Roo. I digress...we were the House at Pooh Corner for a long time. Just when I thought I'd never be able to call him by his given name, it stopped.
Through the last two years we have gone through many different names and phases. There was a time when he was Buzz Lightbeer (yep, again with the mispronunciation! )Then his sister got old enough to understand what was going on and she got in on the act. For a while, I could only call them Andy and Molly from Toy Story. Another time they were Annie and Sandy Dog (him Annie, her the dog), Mary Poppins and Burt, Characters from Word World or Super Why (PBS morning shows) or, my personal favorite, their cousins. They will play that they are Andrew and Meredith and I am Aunt Nanny and Daddy is Uncle Chip. They refuse to call us Mama and Daddy, those are not our names. My children live in the land of Make Believe.
Before I had children, I didn't completely understand this. I would see a Mother at the store with her children dressed in costumes in March and think “My children will never do that. They will be dressed nicely, or at least in real clothes, every time I go out.” I would then smile and remember how I loved playing dress-up as a child, and the look of recognition would cross my face. I would remember how I lived in the land of make believe, a Princess stuck in the tower of the castle just waiting for her brave Knight. Or Annie, living with Miss Hannigan (sorry Mom) singing of the time when my real parents would come to get me. Then I realized that I too lived in the land of make believe.
When my now 17 year old nephew was 4, he was Han Solo (or Luke Skywalker, whoever was needed at the moment). He had his trusty Wookie, Chewbacca (his Dad, my brother), Princess Leia as played by Mom and gave names to everyone else in the family. I was an Ewok. That was the first time since my own childhood that I encountered such make believe. I lived across the country from him, but it didn't stop him from including me in his imagination. For that I am grateful. It prepared me for the wonderful adventures I would have and could have as a Mom to my imaginative little ones.
Today, when I am walking behind my little Jedi Knight - light saber out and fighting off the imaginary battle droids - I see that look of recognition on the faces of men everywhere. Whether it be teenage boys trying to act as cool as they don't feel, college students so busy with their lives, young married men anticipating the day when they can play again too, or Dads who get to play it daily with their own little ones. The look of remembrance of a time when they too were young. A time when they too had no cares in the world. A time when they too could live in the land of make believe. When I see that look, I smile and hope that when he is no longer a Jedi Knight, he will still have that imagination and will remember what it felt like to pretend and to live in the land of make believe. I hope he never forgets it because I know I never will.