When I say the struggle to get kids to go to sleep is universal, I am not being figurative. It’s an intergalactic struggle, and now there’s proof. In an homage to and satire of Goodnight Moon, Jeffrey Brown‘s Goodnight Darth Vader, the latest in his humorous Darth-as-dad series, paints a clear picture of just how similar bedtime with the loud breather is to that of any other parent. Brown’s formula takes us along for yet another parenting adventure (you’ll want to read this aloud to your grown-up friends at dinner parties, too). This time, we get to experience Darth Vader as bedtime reader to Luke and Leia. Even though the humor will probably pack most of its punch for parents especially if they’re Star Wars nerds like me, rest assured it’s also completely appropriate and fun to read to your kids at bedtime.
I wanted to know just how big a Star Wars nerd Jeffrey Brown, the author, really was. He’s a dad, too, and was kind enough to speak to me by phone.
“I don’t think I’m at the top level [of Star Wars nerd-dom],” he explained, “but that just might be because I’ve been to Star Wars Celebration and Comic Con and there are fans there who have a whole other level of knowledge and costumes and things. But I have almost the entire comic collection from Dark Horse and the classic movie magazines when they came out. I have a couple of those Burger King glasses and almost a complete collection of Topps trading cards. If you asked my wife she’d say I’m really, really up there.”
This book is all about Darth reading to his kids, so I asked, as a dad, how important does he feel reading at bedtime is in his life.
“I think it’s really important to read to your kids,” he answered. “Not just as a great way to bond with them but also to get them talking. We read to our son and every day at the dinner table or wherever, we ask him ‘How was school?’ and you usually get the answer, ‘I don’t remember,’ or something like that. But we do a little reading before bedtime and that’s when he’ll start talking to us. We might actually get some information out of him. He’ll just start talking about his day.”
So since I’m a minister, I couldn’t help asking Brown about growing up as what’s known as a “PK” (preacher’s kid). I asked what effect that had on him throughout his childhood.
“You know it’s hard to say,” he answered. “On the one hand it felt there was more pressure about what was expected. You’re the minister’s son so you had to be perfect. My brothers and I were definitely pushing against that expectation. Another part of it, too, was just having this huge community was a little bit overwhelming. Everybody knew my dad and so everybody knew me — but I didn’t know them. I tended to be a little introverted, something I’ve kind of grown out of, but that was another part that was challenging growing up, being so out there in front of people.”
“How did growing up with your father,” I asked, “affect your own parenting style?”
“Well, I think the biggest thing, [I learned from him] is just trying to set a good example and being compassionate with people. If someone was sick he’d go visit them. What I try to instill in my kids is to be good to people and try to be aware of when people need help and try to do it. [And], my love of books comes from my dad. We not only had a huge library at our house, but in his office he had a huge collection. He’s also a teacher; his love of learning is something I still feel really strongly. He still reads books to find out about new things and new subjects. Learning doesn’t end when you’re out of school. You can still continue that path. Something that inspires me today.”
Find out what Five things I learned from Darth Vader‘s parenting style here.
And read more from my interview with Jeffrey Brown on my blog.