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Pablo, Marlin, and Me

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My son has an Ewok named Pablo.

Well, maybe that's not exactly right. In truth, his name is spelled P-A-P-L-O-O, at least if you believe what's on his tag. But when he came home to us for the first time, circa 2002, somehow my son decided that P-A-P-L-O-O was pronounced "Pablo." Hence, the first Ewok of my acquaintence with a Hispanic name.

Pablo's traveled much of the world with us. He's been to Paris, Kahului, New York City, Anaheim, Orlando . . . too many cities to count, actually. But as he is a precious friend to us, and can't walk on his own, he generally doesn't set out with us to tour the city, lest he somehow fall behind in the maddening crowd. Anyone who has parented a small child, or seen Toy Story, knows the potential horror of the favorite attachment object becoming A Lost Toy.

In 2008, when my son and I were planning our trip to Star Wars Weekends, it was always clear that Pablo would need to accompany us to the park just for one day, for one special moment: To meet Warwick Davis, and perhaps even enjoy a photo op or two. Sure, Pablo would've been safer back in the hotel room, but nobody would really be happier that way.

It's hard to explain, and impossible to defend, how nervous I was about Pablo joining us for a day. My son was 11, so you'd think I would chill, but no. I considered buying a Baby Bjorn, so that one of us could carry Pablo in a front-facing carrier, which would be hard to forget (and difficult for him to fall out of). My frantic little mind went to all sorts of scary places about how we'd survive if the beloved Pablo was misplaced somehow. Ultimately, I purchased a dog tag with Pablo's name, plus my contact information, and decided that a string bag would allow both for convenient travel, and a pleasant view of the parks for Pablo.

I'm convinced that Pablo had a great time that day. He toured the parks with us, enjoyed a few tunes by the Modal Nodes, and met our host, Warwick Davis. I hope he didn't notice that when my son told him that his Ewok's name was Pablo, Mr. Davis turned to me with a slightly worried look, as if to ask if this were really true, or if my son were unwell somehow. But in any case, we all enjoyed a happy little photo op, and Mr. Davis was kind enough to autograph Pablo's shirt.

I think about this today as I find myself starting to stare down the empty nest. My son is a teenager, and walking the path to self-determination and self-reliance. Every day I have to let go of him a little bit more. Even our Disney trips can't be the same anymore, as his interests shift (complicated too by the fact that he's not a fan of roller coasters or other thrill rides). And today, Pablo sits in a favorite chair in my own room, though my son enjoys a visit now and then. 

Pablo's still wearing the dog tag, and the autographed shirt. When it comes to parenting role models, I want to be like Crush, from Finding Nemo. I want to go with the flow, cheer for my son as he tackles increasingly bigger obstacles, and let him go without fear. But in my heart of heart, I'm more like Marlin, worried at every turn. Could someone get hurt? Could I survive if something happened to the one I love?

There are many thing I can do as a parent to help prepare my child for the world. But ultimately, I've got to watch him walk about the door with a dog tag and a string bag. And that's got to be okay. Maybe someone will autograph his shirt.