I thought I would be much older when I ordered my first box of Rogaine. Actually, I never really envisioned this moment for myself. But there it is, on my list of Amazon orders, right above diapers and below coffee filters. I have to say that of all the surprises of aging so far, including fine lines and grey hair, this one’s really taken me for a ride.
When I asked my doctor about it, she explained that this symptom is a fun mixology of postpartum hormones and my genetics.
“Oh,” she said, “and make sure you don’t treat your hair with anything while you’re breastfeeding. Those hair loss products are really strong.”
I looked down at my perfect daughter, plump and dewy with a spray of brown hair that stands fully erect on her head. Unlike mine, which apparently needs to be coaxed and coddled into just staying alive.
“You’re stealing my youth,” I whispered, as I unzipped my jacket to feed her again.
To distract me from my navel-gazing, my husband turned on The Mandalorian, the Star Wars spin-off series the whole internet is talking about. But it turns out I still had motherhood on the brain.
[[Warning: Spoilers follow.]]
On the show, a nurse droid has been assigned to care for the baby Yoda, but the Mandalorian doesn’t trust him.
“No!” said the droid! “I’ve been reprogrammed! This is my sole purpose in life!”
Protecting baby Yoda is so much the droid’s sole purpose, that in the season finale (spoiler alert), the droid blows himself up to save the child and his entourage. Once the Mandalorian assures him that the Yoda is safe, the droid no longer needs to exist.
“That’s me! I’m the nurse droid!” I yell to my husband. “My body has served its purpose in life by delivering our children. That’s why it’s destroying itself! It’s not just Star Wars. It’s biology!”
I’m a lot of fun to be married to.
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Taylor rolls his eyes.
“I’m serious,” I say. “It’s a parable for motherhood and aging.”
For the next few days, I take this expert analysis as a great excuse to feel sorry for myself. I slip into internet rabbit holes about postpartum hair loss. I research affordable skin serums. I try to shore my body up against the constant barrage of midnight wake-ups, baby-hauling, and collagen-eradicating meltdowns.
After a few days in this spiral, I hauled a full diaper bag, my purse, plus Jackson and Sophie in her car seat to the YMCA in the pouring rain. It’s the day after New Year’s and everyone’s here, so we park several miles from the building and trudge through the puddles, every one of which Jackson stops to splash in.
Even for admittedly privileged moms like me, motherhood demands resilience and patience.
Then it dawns on me, maybe the Mandalorian himself is a better model for motherhood than the nurse droid.
After all, he’s using similar skills, even while he pursues his day job. He has to finagle childcare while he careens across the desert on a glider to hunt an assassin. He has to protect The Child from his own team of troubled mercenaries and then later from a whole armada of derelict storm troopers. He must risk his own safety.
Plus, he isn’t reprogrammed to care for The Child. He sees baby Yoda and feels his heart strangely warmed inside his armor, and he makes a choice to love and protect this child. And he still hunts criminals. He’s still independent. He’s still a total badass with a gravelly baritone. Baby Yoda’s care doesn’t subsume him.
It’s just that his well-being becomes inextricably intertwined with the well-being of this baby. Yoda becomes a part of his quest.
The first few episodes of the Mandalorian, I complained to my sci-fi-loving husband that I couldn’t relate to a character whose facial expressions I couldn’t see. One who seemed to have no aspirations beyond capturing targets and getting paid for it.
But when he meets baby Yoda, he changes.
I can relate to the Mandalorian who’s undone by Yoda’s hangdog cheeks and saucer-like eyes. In fact, Mando’s reaction takes me back to my son’s first smile. Jackson had been a tiny ball of colicky misery for the first six weeks, but when he grinned at me, I thought, “Oh okay, I guess I will love this child and protect it for the rest of my life.”
And unlike the droid, Mando gets something out of his care for Yoda. He becomes more human. He is softened underneath his coat of armor.
Maybe the Mandalorian is just a glorified mom in a cooler outfit. And maybe he’s one that caretakers — especially non-biological parents and committed aunts and uncles — can all draw inspiration from. Maybe we can recast our daily adventures — surviving a sleepless night, acting like a sherpa, digging deep to play another game of race cars — as an exhilarating space western and not just a biological imperative.
Maybe we can still pursue our own dreams. Maybe we get to be a little bit of a hero, too. Even though some hair days I could still use that helmet.