For the last handful of years, I’ve observed a sad holiday tradition.
I eagerly await the release of the LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar. When the day arrives, I pull up the images on the official LEGO website. I pour over the twenty-four days of miniature starfighters, holiday-themed minifigures and the inevitable weapons rack. I imagine adding such festive figures to my own collection. I marvel at the details. I pick up the box in the aisle of Target, gaze longingly at the whimsy and cheer.
And I put it down, hang my head, and walk away.
But not this year. This year, I broke that tradition. This year, I got my very own LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar.
And as it turns out, this year was the perfect year. Why? My eldest daughter has turned five.
Slowly, carefully, meticulously I’ve introduced her to characters from the Star Wars universe. She loves Ahsoka; Grogu makes her giggle. She knows not to trust Darth Maul and is rightly afraid of the final arc of The Clone Wars.
But I’ve not yet introduced her to the movies themselves, afraid that Vader’s arrival on the Tantive IV might be just a tad too much, might conjure nightmares, replacing that love of Ahsoka with a fear of all things Vader—and once she’s afraid of something, there’s no going back.
No—it has to be well-timed, perfectly executed, and there’s no room for error. I want her to love Star Wars as much as I do.
And that’s why the LEGO Star Wars Advent calendar has been a perfect parenting tool.
Sure, it’s a fun father-daughter bonding experience. Each morning, my two girls trip over themselves to pop open that little cardboard window. With hardly an ounce of the dexterity needed to construct the surprisingly complex sets, they happily play with yesterday’s build as they anticipate today’s results.
Now and again, that same five-year-old manages to snap a few pieces together. Those are the really exciting days.
But as we build, as we pour the pieces onto the carpet and wave away the cat, the inevitable question: “What’s this, Daddy?” Or, “What’s this ship?” Or, “Is this a good guy? A bad guy?”
The questions pry open the door of storytelling. The pieces at our fingertips slowly become beloved objects from the Star Wars universe. My girls see their way into the story one piece at a time with nothing to fear and everything to love.
“This is a B-wing,” I might say. “It’s a ship that the good guys use.” Or, “This is a Snowtrooper. She’s a bad guy—but she’s ready for the snow!”
And then we talk and imagine. And just as the pieces on the carpet transform into miniature toys, so, too, do the pieces of story get put in place so that soon—very soon—they’ll be ready to see and understand and love those objects in their proper place in the Star Wars universe.
But more so than any of that, what makes the LEGO Star Wars Advent calendar particularly perfect is the very fact that some of these pieces—the interpretation of characters and objects—actually don’t show up in the canon of the Star Wars universe. (C’mon. Those LEGO Star Wars movies are great, but I’m not sure they’re, like, canon canon.)
And so, my daughters giggle at Darth Vader in his beach attire. They compare their own Christmas sweaters to C-3P0’s. They imagine building Vader’s Castle on their next trip to the shore.
And Star Wars becomes all that more beloved, all that more part of their own lives, their own imaginations. It’s a story to have fun with, not simply observe. It’s a world far, far away and yet relatable, down to the Christmas sweater.
So, when the day arrives and my daughters witness Vader take the Tantive IV, they might be scared. They should be! They’ll know who the bad guy is. But they’ll also remember how quickly, how easily fear can give way to whimsey and fun and delight.
I think I have a new holiday tradition.