Life on the Loose

Loving and working, with less anxiety (and more fun)

How a Jedi Taught Me to Be a Better Parent

The Difference One Person Can Make in a Mom's Life

 

Jedi (Wikipedia): Loosely based on Japanese samurai, Catholic Jesuits, Templars, and other characters from the "warrior monk" tradition.

 

            Each morning, I bring my three-year-old son to the underground lair of my Jedi master. When we open the cellar door, bells ring to let our Jedi know we have arrived. We step down, and she comes to greet us. "There's my guy!" she says. "Give me a hug!" and JJ runs into her arms. Short and plump and dressed in long, loose cloaks, she reminds me of another short, plump, wise Jedi--Yoda.

            I was lucky enough to find my Jedi when my son, JJ, was 18 months old. My friend, Sheela, led me to Jed (her real name, ironically) and her teachings when I was lost. We had moved to a new town right after having our second child. I didn't know many people, and I couldn't figure out a way to meet anybody because JJ would not stop crying due to a terrible case of reflux. I was isolated and desperate. The plethora of activities made for moms and babies are not made for moms and screaming babies. So he and I were together in our solitude. Sheela listened and said, "Amy, bring him to Jed. She's been taking care of kids for 35 years. He'll love her. He'll be happy. You'll be happy."      

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

            I called Jed, hoping to get her answering machine. Instead, I heard someone pick up, some clamoring, and then, "Hello?"

            "Umm, I'm looking for Jed's playgroup."

            "Oh, hallooooo. This is Jed. Michael, put down the spoon honey. Oops. A little mess, that's OK. Yes, this is Jed."

            I stammered, "Well, I was looking for daycare for a few hours a week but don't know if my son is old enough," I trailed off nervously.

            "Oh come on over anytime. Come right now if you'd like."

 

They don't rule the galaxy and they don't seek power, but they support the Galactic Republic to promote order, harmony, prosperity, etc.

 

            We pushed open Jed's cellar door and stepped down into a magical world. Jed sat at a tiny table helping tiny people stir a giant vat of dough. She looked up at us from behind her glasses. "Oh, you must be JJ! Want to help us make Irish soda bread?" The tiny people jumped up and down like a flock of Munchkins in their various colored aprons, swinging spoons through the air, with bits of dough flying here and there. They gave JJ a big smile.

            JJ didn't join in right away, but he did move toward them and grab a spoon. As Jed talked to JJ, I looked around. Strings of beads hung from the ceiling. Animal masks lined the walls. Soon after, a floppy-eared brown bunny wandered over. I raised my eyebrows at Jed. She said, "That's right. You haven't met Bunny. He goes to school with us, doesn't he, guys?"

            JJ looked at me wide-eyed. Can you believe it? He seemed to say.

 

They train a lot. They wear robes. They're good at making wisecracks.

 

            Like Yoda, Jed had a mystical presence, someone who could set you at ease just by being. Maybe it was her shiny white hair, her soft lap just right for snuggling, or her reading glasses on the beaded chain. It could have been her brightly-colored Crocs (a different pair every day), her long cozy sweaters, or her medals made from painted macaroni.

 

They are sanctified and observe rules of discipline and purity.

 

            At the time, I didn't know how important that day would be to my mothering and my survival. I just knew that JJ was going to be in loving hands, and I would have a few hours to myself. But Jed became my Jedi, my mentor, my teacher in the unpredictable, confusing, and frustrating ways of toddlerhood. Just as JJ is taken care of, I am, too. Each day when I drop him off, Jed gives him a hug and smile and then turns to me to ask, "Hello, Honey! And how are you today?"

            More often than not, I pull up a crate or a miniature chair and tell her my latest concern, desperate about a sleepless night or another temper tantrum. She always has the right words. "Sweetie, I've seen a lot of kids in my many years, and you don't need to worry." In addition to taking care of the toddlers at playgroup, she has also raised her own son. Not only has her son grown up, but he is a happy, healthy functioning member of society with no criminal record. She has helped me enjoy more moments with my son, rather than fretting about the future. She has helped me to see his quirks as strengths ("So, he won't stop moving. Maybe he'll be the next Michael Phelps!"), and she has highlighted how funny and charming he really is ("Really, Honey, that smile is going to break some hearts").

 

They meditate.

 

            "He's probably on the verge of something big," she says thoughtfully, when I report that he won't listen, is talking back, and isn't sleeping.

            "Big like metamorphosis? Seriously, what could he be on the verge of?" I ask.

            "I bet he's about to be potty-trained!" she says, smiling at him triumphantly. He smiles back as if to say exactly.

 

They're very noble and kind.

 

            "Oh, Honey," she says, "do you know how many times I asked the doctor what I was doing wrong? And he always told me, 'We can steer them. We can guide them, but we can't change them. They are who they are.' And I wish now that I hadn't spent so much time worrying."

 

They use the Force (a mystical or magical property of the universe) and have special combat training.

 

            In the two years she has taken care of JJ, they have made potato latkes and gingerbread houses, banana and Irish soda breads. She finger-paints like no other. She can create an art project out of scraps of paper and leftover woodchips. Most importantly, she sees the good in others, even when the others are little people who are throwing themselves on the floor and screaming. She brings out the best in each child, whether it's their artwork, their ability to share, or their skill at jumping high.

 

They have a ruling council of their own, and there is a teacher-apprentice system of initiating new Jedi Knights.

 

            Even though there are not many Jeds around, there are Jedis if we are willing to look. We can find them in an older friend, a co-worker or neighbor. We can find them in the check-out line at the grocery store or at the reception desk at the doctor's office if we look and listen long enough. Because even though most of us here on earth are not battling intergalactic threats or Storm troopers, we are facing battles equally daunting. Battles over bedtimes and naps, bath time and potty-training--battles that can wear us down with worry unless we have the wisdom of our elders, those who have come before. Gaining the insight of people who have lived to talk about it, you won't worry so much about whether your child will go to college with a binky or go to middle school with diapers. You'll realize he will start eating foods that aren't white and that he won't always be afraid of leprechauns. You'll be able to accept more of your child, worry less, and sleep better. At some point, you'll gain the confidence to rise from the ranks of apprentice. Then you just might be a Jedi, too. No light saber needed.

 

 

Amy Cooper Rodriguez is a parenting writer, physical therapist, and mother of two. Her work has appeared on Babble and in numerous parenting magazines.

more...

Subscribe to Life on the Loose

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.