MY daughter doesn’t like Star Wars. I’m devastated. On the day she came into this world, I vowed to be a tolerant father. When the time comes, she can marry a one-legged leprechaun with a second-class arts degree, but she had to like Star Wars.
But she doesn’t. What’s worse, she doesn’t really dislike Star Wars. She is overwhelmed with indifference. Stormtroopers and sarcastic smugglers do not inflame her passions either way. She just stares at the screen and mutters “meh” like a stuttering goat.
For the umpteenth time recently, I tried to infuse our childhoods and live my prepubescent obsessions once more through my obliging offspring. But she wouldn’t play ball. She wanted to play with her Shopkins.
For the blissfully ignorant, Shopkins are tiny, rubbery fruits, vegetables and other supermarket items with smiley faces that come in little packets for big money. That’s it. They do not come with light-sabers, blasters or backstories. They do nothing. They are small, rubbery and pointless.
But I persisted with the DVD nonetheless. I wanted my vicarious Star Wars thrill, to see my wonder years through her eyes. I got nothing.
“Look at Darth Maul,” I said. “He’s got two light-sabers.”
“I’ve got two Billy Boot Straps,” she replied from the living room rug, not looking up from her beloved Shopkins.
I can’t recall the exact moniker, but each Shopkin has a shop-inspired, alliterative name of sorts like Sally Soup Cans or Tommy Toilet Brush. Kids’ characters should have sensible, realistic names like Jar Jar Binks.
But I tried everything. I championed Princess Leia. She was my banker. I focused on the angelic white dress, the handsome hero coming to her rescue and the eternal, Homeric battle between good and evil. I ticked every box for the modern, Disney-deified damsel in distress.
My daughter said Princess Leia’s hair looked like a pretzel on each ear.
But I persevered with Star Wars DVD until my wife had left the living room, my daughter had retreated to her bedroom to play with Sammy Sliced Loaf and I was left alone on the sofa doing Jar Jar Binks impressions.
That’s not a healthy state of affairs for any father.
Ordinarily, I’m a modern, new age, sensitive Dad. There’s no Frustrated Father Syndrome in my house. I retain vivid childhood memories of standing alone, shivering, on a frozen East London pitch as apoplectic parents stood on the sidelines shouting: “Get the boot in, tackle harder, win the ball, win the man, win the lottery, kick him, maim him, kill him.”
And that was just my mother.
No, it wasn’t really. I banned her from attending my football matches after cheering, whooping, fist bumping and moonwalking whenever I touched the ball.
But I’m conscious of not foisting my suppressed ambitions and personal preferences onto my daughter. She’ll make her own lifestyle choices and mistakes. She doesn’t need to overcompensate for mine.
I grew up with football. She’s growing up with gymnastics, which essentially means I pay money to a gym instructor so my little girl can pull off half a cartwheel after two years of classes.
The soundtrack of my youth was Britpop. Hers is One Direction. She’s already been punished enough.
The definitive movie of my childhood was Star Wars. And the definitive movie of her childhood will be Star Wars if it’s the last thing I do.
So this week, I played my trump card.
The new trailer for the next Star Wars movie – The Force Awakens – was released. We watched it together on my laptop. For the first time in more than 30 years, Han Solo and Chewbacca shared screen time again.
In that moment, I regressed. I was the same age as my daughter.
“Daddy,” she said. “Why is there a tear in your eye?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. It’s the haze.”
“Mummy, Daddy’s crying over the new Star Wars trailer.”
“Ssh, be quiet. Your mother already thinks I’m weird. So what do you think? Do you want to watch Star Wars now?”
My daughter thought carefully about the answer. She owed me that at least.
“Nah, it’s rubbish,” she said.
And she carried on playing with Charlie Cheese Toastie and the rest of the Shopkins collectibles.
The Force isn’t strong with this one, but there’s still time. When the movie arrives in December, Daddy and daughter will be side by side in a cinema near you.
She may do it for love. She’ll definitely do it for a bribe.
Where can I buy these Shopkins?
About the Author: Neil Humphreys is one of Singapore’s best-selling authors. His works include Notes from an Even Smaller Island (2001), Scribbles from the Same Island (2003), and Final Notes from a Great Island (2006). Be My Baby (2008) chronicled his journey to parenthood and was his first international best-seller. His most recent Singapore book, Return to a Sexy Island (2012), was a No.1 best-seller and turned into a TV series. His illustrated book series – Abbie Rose and the Magic Suitcase – is proving popular with children all over the world and is currently being adapted into an animated TV series. Humphreys has written extensively for The Straits Times, TODAY, The New Paper, Esquire, Men’s Health, FourFourTwo and Young Parents. He currently lives in Bedok with his family and hopes his daughter will learn conversational Mandarin so she can teach her Dad.