Hi and welcome to the Single Dad’s Guide to Life.  We have partnered with Brandi Kennedy of Brandi Kennedy: Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman for the month of January to do a perspectives series.  So please check out her posts as well that correspond to mine.  She has such a unique and beautiful voice when it comes to blogging.  And she writes novels which just blows me away.  Wanting to finish our last week strong and still keep to what makes our blogs unique and different, we decided to talk about Television shows which have meaning to us.  For me, I couldn’t think of any other show to talk about aside from Game of Thrones.

What makes Game of Thrones amazing to me, aside from all of the amazing visuals, incredible acting and special effects, is the various themes they focus on throughout the piece.  Being an English Lit major in college did make me focus on a lot of stories with absent or present mothers.  This would affect the hero or heroine in the extreme.  But while fathers existed in classic literature, they did not seem to have the primacy of mothers.  They always seemed to take a back seat.  Game of Thrones makes sure to give extensive play to the theme of fathers, as well as taking the time to discuss the pivotal role of mothers throughout the piece.

This got me to thinking about some of the biggest messages I have been able to glean from Game of Thrones about fathers and mothers.  And as I was invited to a special fan screening of Season 7 Episode 4 to celebrate the season 7 DVD release, I thought about how Season 7  focused on the role of fathers and mothers and the important lessons Game of Thrones teaches us about being parents.

Among the many lessons available, I found 5 lessons learned which stood out to me from Game of Thrones Season 7 about parents and the pivotal role they play in their children’s lives.

Five Lessons About Being A Parent I Learned From Game Of Thrones Season Seven

1)  There Is So Much More To Fatherhood Than Just Being There

This seems like an obvious truth.  But I think Game of Thrones speaks this truth and takes it one step further.  Because, whatever you may have thought about Tywin Lannister, he was there and engaged in the life of his children.  Maybe he selected the paths they would go on.  But he was always there spending time with his kids and engaged in the decisions they made.

Of course, his inability to listen to the thoughts and desires of his children made him blind to the problems going on behind the scenes.  Whether this made him ignore the accomplishments of Tyrion, or unable to cope with the problems of Cersei and Jamie, Tywin failed at being a father.  Ultimately a father should be able to communicate thoughts, goals, and ideas to his children.  And Tywin couldn’t do this.  Maybe having a wife would have made Tywin better able to do this and we could have blamed it on an absent mother.  But not necessarily.

Ned Stark, while possibly blind to the political machinations of everything going on around him, taught his kids well.  He did have the difficulty of Jon Snow.  And he had so many things swirling around him which challenged him.  But he communicated the difference between right and wrong.  And he instilled in his children a love of family.  How do we know this?  When chaos overtook the Starks they ran to different corners of the globe.  But when they came back together they loved and appreciated those differences in each other no matter what happened in the past.

2)  Being A Loving Mother To Your Kids Is Not Enough

So many of the matriarchs of the seven kingdoms loved their kids.  Even Cersei Lannister, one of the wickedest women in the seven kingdoms loved her kids.  Tyrion, while angry and terrified of Cersei in all other aspects, said her one redeeming quality was the love she showed to her children.  How did love work out for Cersei?  By the time Season 7 starts, Cersei’s children are gone and all we have left is a power hungry loveless shell of a human being.  So what happened?  We have three different examples.  And those three different examples tell us something about approaches to parenting which show failure, despite love.

The first child Cersei has an opportunity with is Joffrey.  What does Joffrey turn into?  Joffrey becomes a spoiled brat of a king with a weak heart and weak will.  He would love to pluck the wings off of flies and burn ants.   He probably brutalized all of his pets as a youth.  This represents the permissive parenting style.  Cersei loved her child with all her heart, and couldn’t deny him anything.  She gave and gave, with no expectation of return.  But she couldn’t reign in Joffrey’s excesses because she never reigned him in about anything.  You can love a child, but without boundaries the child ultimately fails.  Because a child keeps reaching out for boundaries.  And when none occurs, they keep pushing farther at those boundaries.  In the end, the boundaryless child may be involved in all forms of evil, for their conscience is malformed.

The second child Cersei mothered was Myrcella.  Contrary to being overly permissive, Cersei allowed Tyrion to ship her off to Dorne.  She loved her child and wanted the best for her.  But her hands off approach to Myrcella unleashed a major independent streak.  The irony is, by setting Myrcella free of her influence, she actually turned out to be a reasonably well adjusted child.  But allowing others to do the raising put Myrcella into danger leading to tragic consequences.

Cersei had Tommen last.  Cersei had been the permissive parent.  She had also been the hands off parent.  Tommen was her last shot at redemption.  Unfortunately, Tommen she tried to helicopter parent.  With Tommen, she ruled the roost.  She made sure Tommen did whatever he was told.  And she did what she thought was best for him.  Which means frequently, she took the decisions away from Tommen, even to the very end.  Tommen, as a result, could not stand up for himself.  Not being allowed to make decisions made it so that he couldn’t even enforce his decisions as a king.  The people walked all over him.  First his mother, then Tywin and ultimately the High Septon.  And at the apex of Tommen’s loss of power, he commits suicide.  Loving was never enough, no matter which way Cersei tried to parent.

3)  You Cannot Spare Your Children Pain

Far too frequently today we try to remove from our kids the ability to experience pain.  The crazy thing is, it’s as if we have learned nothing as human being when we do this.  Because pain, more than any other thing impacts our ability to grow.  With any virtue, you don’t grow in an area without some corresponding “pain“.  You don’t become patient unless something tests your patience.  You cannot be merciful without someone to have done something to violate you.  And you cannot show grace to those who have never wronged you.

So as parents, when we step in to remove pain, we actually make it difficult for our children to handle difficult situations when we grow up.  Ask any billionaire.  They didn’t learn the most from the things which they succeeded at right away.  They learned from the things they failed at.  Our kids need to have the freedom to fail in order to have the ability to succeed.

Cersei tried to spare her children any form of pain which lead to tragic consequences for all of them.  Ned Stark, on the other hand, tried to make sure their kids knew about the pains of life.  He even showed them life hands you difficult decisions, and you need to own up to them, for good or bad.  Despite the acrimony of their youth, guess whose kids ended up more well adjusted in the end?

4)  The Sins Of The Father Have Lifelong Consequences

So often we pretend our mistakes should have no consequences on our kids.  But we fail at being a parent when we fail to recgonize how much our failures truly do impact our kids.  Tywin felt like training would overcome the hatred he held towards Tyrion.  Instead it led to rebellion and ultimately his own demise.  In fact, every child was effected by this hatred.  Cersei reflected Tywin’s hatred of his child.  And Jamie tried to be overly loving and caring of his siblings, which was it’s own form of tragedy.  Tywin’s hatred continues on in the discord among his children.

Daenerys suffered the sins of her father.  She had to run from people trying to kill her.  She was sold into an arranged marriage to procure an army.  And she had to beg, borrow, cheat, and steal just to survive once she fled Westeros.  Yes, her experiences made her more empathetic towards people than her father, which ultimately was a good thing.  But her father’s sins produced pain and torment to Daenerys.  And the people of Westeros mistrust her because of her father’s sins.

With the Starks, Ned’s over-trusting nature led to his own death, which sent his family into chaos.  This would lead his wife to try to control things which ultimately would lead to Rob making decisions he might not have made.  And his mom trying to control things caused Rob to rebel against his mother and his word, which cost him his life.  Or we could look at Sansa stuck and controlled by one wicked person after the other.  And Arya went on the run from everyone and everything.  Each child’s life unraveled as a result of their father’s poor decision making skills.  When you get to Season 7 and see Ned’s kids, you can tell they have had to lead hard and ugly lives because of the decisions they made. Their father’s foibles changed them.

5) As A Parent, You Can’t Fix Your Previous Failures By Having Another Child

I cannot imagine the chaotic world of the Seven Kingdoms would increase your desire to have a child in the first place.  The whole character of the Hound sees people as meat and trying to make something meaningful of life is a big waste of time.  Despite the chaos, people still are interested in babies.  Tyrion worries about the future of the Seven Kingdoms after Daenerys dies.  Daenerys despairs over the fact she cannot have children. And somehow Cersei ends up being pregnant again.

But why would she do this?  I think she does it for the same reasons many people have babies who have had failing relationships or children who have turned out as disappointments.  Somehow, they feel like they are going to make it right this time.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t change who you are.  And it won’t make your new child’s world any better.  In some ways you may screw up the new child even more.

Children cannot be a practice makes perfect proposition.  You have to be able to give them your all.  And usually, it doesn’t get better.  More kids doesn’t fix anything.  It doesn’t fix marriages.  It doesn’t fix relationships.  And it won’t be better for the younger children.  They just suffer through the same problems you had before.

Cersei thinks she can have another child with Jamie and this time it will be better.  She will raise the children better.  And Jamie will be able to be a part of the child’s life this time in a way he was never able to do with the others.  Things will get better, right?  Of course they won’t because Cersei didn’t change as a person.  She drove Jamie away with her thirst for power already.  So the new child will not have their dad any more than her earlier children did.  Things don’t get better, because you don’t magically change when the new child comes along.

Continue The Conversation

One of the best thing about Game of Thrones is how despite how different the world is, the problems the characters face feel like real world problems.  Whether it’s about relationships, parenting, power or politics, Game of Thrones provides real life lessons which can be applied.  For those of you who are Game of Thrones geeks like me, what are some of your favorite lessons you have learned from the series?  And for those who aren’t, what are some of your favorite TV shows?  And what are some of the great things you have learned?  I’m all for finding some great new TV shows to binge watch.  What else is Netflix for?

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If you liked this post, please follow me here at the Guide.  And like the post as well.  Email followers will be given the password to the Dad Rules.  These are ten rules every dady should know about and follow.  Thanks for stopping by, and keep coming back for the rest of the month as we finish up the Perspectives Series.

Until next time, this is me signing off.

David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life