Life has an interesting way of creeping up on you in so many different ways. You think you are trying to protect your children from its horrors and you realize life finds a way to show them to your kids anyway. All of this came to a head for me when my mother, a devout Christian woman, had my daughter watching the Game of Thrones. Up until this point, I had avoided making the “mistake” of having my daughter watch that show. Why would I say mistake? Aside from the extreme violence, the intense and often adult subject matter, and the crazy amount of nudity in the show, it’s practically a kids show. Right? Right?!?! Obviously, I know that Game of Thrones could in no ways be considered a kid’s show. Although I am certainly not beyond doing something foolish. But this moment with my mom and daughter reiterated to me one truism of life. You cannot protect your kids from everything.
As a result of this knowledge, my take on film and TV marks a large departure from how my parents dealt with me. Maybe my parents had a better vision of what should be done. And maybe, what worked for me does not work the same for my daughter. We lived in a different world when PG-13 wasn’t part of the rating system and Hollywood tried to figure out how to classify certain films. (Check out Panic in Needle Park sometime and try to figure out why it got a PG rating.) So we do not compare apples to apples when figuring out things. I know that my parents began with the idea that they would watch things first, prior to their kids watching them. That way they could protect their kids from exposure to material they were not ready for. (I have a story about the upcoming movie It that makes me understand why people do this.)
But my version of how to deal with life runs counter to this in some ways. I definitely desire to protect my child. But understanding that I will not be able to prevent their exposure to everything, I have taken a different tactic. Obviously, some things she cannot watch. As I believe she will get exposure to things at school, or at friends places. So I want the chance to be able to frame the experiences she has first. I want the ability to talk to my daughter about how I think a certain action is wrong. Or I want to be able to show her good things can come out of bad circumstances. (I still make her close her eyes or leave the room during nude scenes.) And my daughter gladly obliges. But by being there, I can be the one who helps shape her sensibilities about the world in a way that trying to shelter her from things cannot.
Before I continue on, I wish to say I do not critique those parents who decide they wish to do things differently. I do not believe I could have handled certain of the things my daughter can handle now. I would have reacted very differently. So what works for one child doesn’t necessarily work for all children. So please, as parents, do what you consider your best as far as your conscience goes. This works for us.
And as I want to be the person to shape her sensibilities about things such as Game of Thrones, this got me to thinking about the lessons I have learned from the epic Television series. I think as the series will be winding up after next season, I think it more apropos to consider what lessons we can glean from this Television series. (One such commentator called it the last of the water cooler series. I hope he is wrong.) So I started to consider what lessons I could learn and teach to my daughter from the Game of Thrones series, aside from never treat people like the way they treat people . . . anywhere. Anytime. Oh! And please, if you want to act, be prepared to draft contracts where you do not have to get naked on film. (I am a parent after all.)
As a result, I have compiled these ten Game of Thrones life lessons we can share with our children.
10 Game Of Thrones Life Lessons
10) It’s better to love those who see the good in you than the bad.
Just let this sit for a bit. I had a discussion yesterday about who Jamie Lannister should end up with. Some have argued this should be Brienne. While I do not think this will happen, it’s obvious that Jamie is better off with her than Cersei, his true love. Leaving aside the incest part, Cersei sees everyone as a pawn. She may love Jamie in her own strange way. But she sees him as a tool, albeit a useful one. Brienne sees the best in Jamie. And when with her, he lives up to the person he wants to be. No matter how “good” the person you love is, if they cannot see the best in you, they will not be worth it in the end. They will not find happiness in you. Neither will you with them.
9) Owning who you are, good or bad, makes all the difference.
We should not teach our children their bad behavior does not have consequences. But like Tyrion and Jon Snow, they need to own who they are. Jon keeps trying to shirk his identity. I think this is why he broods so much. He constantly grapples with identity. Tyrion knows he drinks too much and acknowledges his “dwarfness”. He cannot do anything else. And owning this makes him a happier person than Jon. But the happier he is, the less he drinks. And Tyrion knows this too. So his challenge is to drink less. But knowing this, Tyrion can develop a plan of action. Without that acknowledgment, he would drink himself to death.
Jon keeps trying to run away from identity and responsibility. But as Jon accepts his identity, he becomes happier. Ygritte tried to get him to do this. So did Tyrion. He could be happier if he accepted hard decisions as his father figure Ned did. They are necessities, neither good nor bad. For Jon, he knows he has to make hard decisions. He just broods a lot while making them. Hopefully, Danny can change all that.
8) While drinking might feel good at the time, it does not make you happier.
I know that some may dispute this claim given the character of Tyrion. But his drinking masks pain that he has from his family. It might feel good, but it does not make him happy. Tyrion found happiness when he controlled King’s Landing as the hand of the king. Tyrion found happiness when he helped others. And ultimately, Tyrion found happiness in supporting causes he believed in. He never found happiness at the end of the bottle. And watch what drinking did to the Knight Joffrey turned into a jester. Or think about how Joffrey was actually killed off, through drinking. Robert Baratheon dies from drink as it dulls his senses. Or think about how the Many Faced God was going to take out the actress through Aria. Drinking may numb the pain, but it does not bring life. Drinking brings death.
7) The Good does not always win.
I know we like to believe in karma. Or for people of faith, we believe that we reap what we sow. And I do believe that. But that does not mean that good always triumphs over evil. Even if you are a Christian, you believe in the long game. Good ULTIMATELY triumphs. But evil can win a battle or two along the way. If we teach our kids to expect good to triumph, they become disappointed and disillusioned when it does not. (Think the world full of Gen X’ers. And I can say that because I am one.) Either help your kids focus on the long game. Or help them see that evil can triumph unless they band together to stop it. Obviously, Cersei has been around a long time so Game of Thrones perfectly shows how evil can maintain power and be around a long time.
6) Power does not bring happiness.
One could argue that Robert Baratheon does what he does out of revenge. Or you could argue he does it out of honor. Either way, he ends up being the king of Westeros. Does that make him happy? No. Robert knows he needs to do things, but instead he tries to fill himself up with other worldly pleasure. He drinks all the time. He sleeps around all the time. And if he lived long enough you could imagine him writing the Book of Ecclesiastes. He could have all the power, money, and sex in the world. But none of it makes him happy. Instead, he has schemers behind his back like Littlefinger, Varys, and his wife.
5) Death comes for everyone.
You cannot escape it by being good. Ask Ned or Rob Stark about that one. You cannot escape it or delay it by being bad or achieving power. Ask Joffrey or Robert Baratheon about that one. You may delay it a little and be Frankenstein’s monster. (The Mountain) I am not sure you could call him happy or sad. And bringing one back from the dead does not make one happy. Just ask Jon Snow. It’s also interesting that real death in the form of the White Walkers is coming for all the characters. In that sense, we learn that life is not about death avoidance. Death comes for every man. The meaning in life comes in how we live it. Whether going down fighting White Walkers or fighting for love or causes we believe in defines us as people. Do you want to go down fighting for power? Gold? Riches? Or for the good of others? You choose.
4) Lies and manipulation catch up with you.
Maybe not for Littlefinger just yet, but for the most part, lies and manipulation have caught up with all of the people in this world. Whether the Masters, Joffrey, Cersei (she lost her three children), Lady Olenna, Ellaria Sand, etc. All of these people end up facing some form or retribution for their manipulations and schemings. Someone beats them at their own game. Or someone uses them in such a way to achieve their ends. And in the case of Joffrey, someone saw how dangerous he could be and took him out. Either way, everyone has their lies and duplicity catch up with them in one way or another.
3) Power carries with it great responsibility.
I am not trying to go all Spiderman comics on you. But in truth, when you have power, you have a stress level unheard of. Daenerys has had to deal with an inordinate share of responsibility as her power has grown. But she has tried to take this responsibly and seriously. This meant helping out slaves, trying to make peace with masters, marrying people that would advantage her politically, and sending away people she loves to protect them and herself. In life, power does not necessarily make something bad. But what it does do is make choices and situations difficult. And if you want power for good, then the decisions you have before you will be difficult. If crave power to attain more power, you will become evil. Littlefinger and Dany are the two polar ends up people achieving power. And even those good who have power can be forced to make a bad decision out of competing bad decisions.
2) The family is and should be important.
This does not mean the family is important to the exclusion of all other things. Think Tywin Lannister here. But the love of family and that bond you share makes all the difference in life. Ned was a great father. He may have had petulant children, but when Aria and Sansa or Sansa and Jon get back together, you can see how Ned as patriarch raised honorable children. They can see past their petty squabbles and that makes it so they cannot be destroyed. Look to the Lannisters. They are opposites in this regard. Tywin couldn’t love Tyrion like he should have been loved. This created animosity in the children which created friction and ultimately the destruction of the house. Tywin’s lack of respect for his son wound up in his own death. Cersei boiled in hatred against Tyrion which led him to send Cersei’s daughter away, resulting in her death. Breeding love of family and its importance makes a world of difference.
1) Every person should be judged on their own merits.
Jon Snow is amazing. However, everyone judges him because he represents illegitimacy. They mistreat him and look down upon him. Yet he became one of the great leaders of Westeros. Tyrion Lannister people judge as a lecher and a drunk. But he can be a shrewd operator and a person of great heart and consideration of others. Daenerys Targaryen’s age and family (the mad king), relegated her to dangerous and insane status and got sent a world away. Yet she appeared to be the most considerate ruler, who loves the people she cares for, and ultimately one of the most responsible people in Westeros. It would be easy to judge any of these people as worthless. And yet they are worth more than Cersei or Jamie Lannister with the good looks and connections. It’s easy to look on the outside. The key to sizing up an individual is to look at the heart.
It would be easy to judge any of these people as worthless. And yet they are worth more than Cersei or Jamie Lannister with the good looks and connections. It’s easy to look on the outside. The key to sizing up an individual is to look at the heart. Remembering that and teaching that lesson to our kids would be very valuable in everyday life.
Continue The Conversation –
For the few of you who have not been sucked into the Game of Thrones ethos, I would love to know what other difficult TV series to share with your kids you have been able to teach life lessons from. And then maybe I can go binge-watch that and see what things I can glean. (I would love to say I don’t binge-watch anything but I would be lying. Fringe. Ahem!! Cough, Cough!!!) And for those of you who have watched Game of Thrones, what are some interesting lessons you have picked up from it? Or you could always tell me who you think Tyrion’s father and mother are. I would love to hear.
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Until next time, “chaos is a ladder.”
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life