An AT-AT walker designed for a four-year-old

All photos by Stephanie Kaloi.

Back story: my four-year-old son had a scheduled surgery on both his legs last Tuesday, and was sent home with a walker and knee immobilizers — neither of which he enjoys. He especially associates the walker with pain, since while in the hospital they asked him to stand and walk with it and it hurt (a lot) post-op.

We happen to be good friends with comic artist and illustrator Ben Dewey (author of the Tragedy Series, a Tumblr you should have checked out, like, yesterday) and his wife, Lindsey. We're all big Star Wars fans — and so is our son. The other day I Instagrammed a photo of my son's walker, and the Offbeat Empire's Megan Finley (you know, the Offbeat Bride editor who hates babies?) made a comment that it reminded her of an AT-AT. This had me thinking: what if we made the walker look more like an AT-AT and let our son shoot at us (something we usually strongly discourage) while he was standing and walking? Another friend suggested we print out a picture of an AT-AT and attach it to the walker, and then Lindsey told me Ben had volunteered to create an AT-AT for the walker.

Around 20 hours later, Ben and Lindsey came over to our place with the most impressive walker I've ever seen:

To say this is above and beyond any expectations we had is an understatement: this thing is incredible. Dude loves being able to call Darth Vader (his favorite character) for instructions, and has mastered the sound of a laser being fired. More importantly, the goal was accomplished: our son happily walked all around our living room firing lasers at us for nearly an hour without once being scared that the walker would cause him pain. He'll need the walker for another three weeks, and having him happy to use it is a huge leap forward for his recovery.

It's absolutely magical, and yes: the Force is mighty strong with this one. And if you REALLY want to geek out, a friend of mine posted a photo on Reddit and WILLIAM SHATNER COMMENTED ON IT. Did your fandom heads just implode? 'Cause mine just did.


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    • I do feel it's worth noting that this morning dude very politely and very seriously told me he wants to be Darth Vader when he grows up. He asked me how he could do that, but fortunately for me he distracted himself before I could come up with a clever way to deflect the inquiry.

      This afternoon he said he wants to be a deep sea explorer, so we're back on track.

      9 agree
      • Again, Stephanie: raddest kid ever. I especially love that he asked how it was possible!

        5 agree
        • Ha! Yep, the exact question/statement was, "I really want to be Darth Vader when I grow up. How do I do that? I really want to grow up and be Darth Vader. Mom?"

      • Of course, that's when you sit him down and have a serious showing of Episode 3 and a family discussion/intervention afterwards. Lesson: Become Darth Vader by having your best friend cut off your limbs and then burn you in lava.

        • Seriously! I had all these thoughts, like "Well, first, I need to be on the lookout for Tusken Raiders… and we might need to make sure you're in solid anger management classes… and you need to steer clear of lava…." and then I realized those were all ways to avoid becoming Vader.

          5 agree
      • THIS IS AMAZING.
        Of course, he can still wear a tricked-out space age suit, pilot really complicated undersea vehicles with lots of blinky lights and have his own theme song, so I think there's potential to blend these aspirations.

        8 agree
        • Dootsiebug, you make me happy.

          I am now going to try to figure out how to view my boring office job in another light…

          3 agree
        • YES TO ALL OF THE ABOVE.

          6 agree
  1. Man, your friend's should send a template of this to pediatric physios, so that they can print it out and stick them on. I am an OT and know a lot of kids who would love this. Also whip up a version for wheelchairs and crutches!!

    22 agree
    • I LOVE THAT IDEA! I already said that when we go back to get the casts off we should see if they want to keep this and let other kids use it. I'll send this idea to him!

      4 agree
  2. First of all, big sympathies to all of you during recovery time! Second, your friends and this walker are THE COOLEST. Seriously. The coolest.

    4 agree
  3. You win all the coolest mum awards!!!
    This is absolutely amazing, such a thoughtful (and geeky) way to make a little boy so happy :)

    2 agree
  4. OMG that is so AWESOME! Words can't even begin to describe the awesomeness!

  5. This is parenting done right. You effectively took something your child hates and made it fun for them. I love this.

    1 agrees

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