Something really big

July 20,2010
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

L. went to his first major concert ever on Sunday night: Star Wars: In Concert. Those tickets for the show, plus the cat tree for his bedroom, were the only two things he asked for from us this year. For weeks now he's been excited about the concert. As with all things emotional, L.'s excitement would come in explosive spurts every now and then. Some days he would say nothing at all about the concert; then he'd come hurtling down the stairs and shout--the words all strung together: "we'vegottogetticketsforStarWarsInConcert!" He packed up a small tupperware bin with his Star Wars collectible figures, picked out a notebook for potential autographs, and had everything packed and ready weeks before the event. His "we'vegottogetticketsforStarWarsInConcert" mantra turned into "This is going to be BIG!" It's been a little over a year since Star Wars entered out lives. I'll always be eternally grateful to George Lucas for that (although not necessarily for introducing L. to smooching in films). Until Star Wars became one of L..'s obsessive interests, he had focused mainly on things like office supplies, sewers and the underground, and outer space and aeronautics--from a purely scientific angle. While we loved these interests, I longed for even just one of them to intersect with those of his peers--for his sake. We tried to gently steer him into Star Wars, or Harry Potter, or even Legos, but to no avail. He'd lock his mind against more mainstream pursuits, and bury himself deeper into David Macaulay's mysterious, technical and beautiful worlds. "It's okay for him to have unique interests," people would say and of course it was. Of course! I wouldn't have it any other way...but still, life is hard enough for kids who are in any way different that you can't help as a parent but to want the way paved a little easier for them. You ache for it sometimes, you feel wounded by every exclusion, every setback, every time you hear about name-calling, and playground games gone terribly wrong. At some moments more than others, I fully realize what a triumph it is that any child learn to navigate the chaotic territory of the social world, let alone a child like L., for whom social interactions are excruciating and often painful. Star Wars opened up a whole new world to L.--in more ways than one: a fantastic, mind-stretching, exciting world that gave him the ability to finally, at long last, share what he loved the most with others. "I secretly always loved Star Wars," he told us one day last year. "I just didn't want to show it to people." And that he finally did--finally gave himself permission to dive into that world--that was, I think, the beginning of something really big. Something really big