In this time of COVID-19, I’ve had the chance to watch new shows on Netflix and rewatch favorites I’ve already watched. One such series that I spent time rewatching recently was Game of Thrones (GOT). Much of the hype around GOT happened while I was busy juggling motherhood and a busy law practice, so I wasn’t paying very close attention. Now, I can. As an aside, I read the books some years ago and the books are still by far my favorites over the show. But, I digress …
One of the themes I’ve noticed coming through loud and clear in GOT are all the examples of how parents affect their children, good and bad. In the overwhelmingly patriarchal society depicted in the show, it at first seems that fathers have the most affect on their children, but as I watched closer, the role of mothers and mother figures, while more subtle, can often be even more important, especially when it is absent. And that influence is absent a lot, seemingly more often than not.
While I do realize that GOT is a fantasy, one of the marks of the genius of the author is that the characters closely mirror real life in many ways. The role of the parent in shaping the outer and inner world of their children has been a consistent theme in my life and one I’ve seen in others around me, particularly my five (5) siblings and my husband. It’s also something my husband and I talk about regularly in relation to our two (2) boys. Knowing that my role in their lives may be much shorter than we hope has created an increased desire to understand and be intentional about my mark on their lives before my death affects them.
One book I read last year was The Blessing by Gary Smalley and John Trent. The Blessing explains the five (5) elements of a traditional blessing rooted in the culture and teachings of the Old Testament. In the Jewish culture described in the Old Testament, suggests the author, these elements were an important and well-understood part of family life. It reminds me of the formal and measured way the Ned Stark character in GOT relates to his children, a theme that is seen clearly through the entire show, long after he lost his head. I’ve done my best to incorporate some of these elements in my relationship with my boys and in the letters I’m writing to leave behind for them to open.
The five elements of the blessing described by Smalley and Trent are:
- meaningful touch
- a spoken message of love and acceptance
- attaching “high value” to the person being blessed
- picturing a special future for that person
- an active commitment to fulfill the blessing
I’m not a touch-feely person generally and typically keep my hands to myself; however, I’ve noticed that I instinctively practice meaningful touch with my boys and also random other children. Before you start thinking bad thoughts (you know you were going there), I’m talking about a gentle touch on the head or the shoulder or arm to show love or approval or celebration. I’ve also found that getting someone’s attention with a gentle touch is much preferable than shouting when possible. Living in this strange time of COVID and touching restrictions has reminded me how important a meaningful touch can be, especially with children.
I also struggle at times with the spoken message. I’m an introvert and my internal world is my safe place. Taking the time and focusing on remembering to speak messages of love and acceptance has been a discipline that I’ve had to learn over time. I’ve noticed that after I’ve spent some time writing messages of love and acceptance for my boys to have later, the words come easier to me. We still co-sleep with the boys, so those precious moments of snuggling and whispering right before bed are the perfect time to remind them how much they are loved.
These steps can be applied to any relationship, not just the ones between parents and children; at the same time, I do think that they are at their most powerful in a mentoring or parenting or caretaking relationship. It is the person who is older and wiser who the mentee or child is looking to for approval and these steps provide a powerful road map to be able to do so.
Whatever the specifics, the powerful role of Fathers in relation to their sons along with their daughters and Mothers in relation to their daughters and, of course, their sons, cannot be overstated. It is an awe-inspiring position and one that should be undertaken with careful thought and measured action.