Michigan dad-of-three and photographer Dustin Valkema is basically the coolest father around. Because he planned and executed a Star Wars-themed photo shoot for his son, light saber and all. And trust us, the force is strong with this one!
But there's more to this story than photographs featuring cool effects.
"My inspiration for this shoot came for my son's love for Star Wars," Valkema told Parents.com. "He's always excited to talk about the films and enjoys watching them with me."
So when Mykhi turned 4, his dad said it "not only gave me the opportunity geek out a bit, but also allowed me to do something truly special for him. Watching him open his costume and toys around a strong family atmosphere was priceless."
A strong family atmosphere is especially important to Valkema given the fact that he never met his birth father, spent much of his childhood in the foster care system, and did not have a stable father figure until he was adopted at age 11. But he says his experience "did nothing but inspire me to be the best father I can be."
"Much of the desire to shape my children stems from what I did not have growing up. I want to spend quality time with my kids and share my artistic passions with them," he told us. "Doing this shoot was one way to share my artistry with him, spend time with him, and give him positive memories of his childhood."
"As a father in today's world I feel it's highly important to empower our children," Valkema says. "The more they see their father or mother handle stress, overcome obstacles, and work for a goal, achieve that goal, and seek the next, the more they will have it hardwired to push for their dreams."
Valkema also feels that talking about how his childhood was different than what his kids know will help them learn that how they view life is up to them—no matter the obstacles that may come their way. "I had all odds stacked against me as a child and chose to make the best of it. It is a choice. If you want something bad enough, you are willing to work hard for it until you reach your goals."
So what's up next for this amazing dad, his three young children, and his wife Liz, who he calls his "rock?"
"I am in the process of planning another Star Wars-themed shoot for my oldest son by request, which will more than likely be the last of the Star Wars theme for a bit."
Then, Valkema hopes to let his kids' imaginations dictate the next ideas!
In the end, Valkema says, "Inspiring change starts at home." We are certainly inspired by you, Dustin.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.