Parenting is not easy. I say that not as a parent, but as someone who had parents who struggled raising me, as a teacher who sees daily how thin parents can be stretched, and as someone who as, all of his life, aspired to be a parent. Parenting is not easy. Understatement of a lifetime.
But just in case you don’t believe me, look at the lessons that Star Wars has taught us.
Ah, Shmi. The Mary to Anakin’s Jesus. Victim of fate. Victor of circumstance.
First, let’s talk about the corner that Qui-Gon painted her in. Right in front of Anakin, he announced, for the first time, that Anakin was no longer a slave. Not cool, Qui-Gon, not cool.
So Shmi either says yes, Anakin can go to become a Jedi (which she did) or she says no and one of two things happens. One, Anakin gets mad at her, eventually forgive her, and probably does some real good for the desert folks. The other option is he stays, resents her for the rest of his life, and takes his mother issues into adulthood, which is another whole plethora of problems. Psychological studies have shown that it is really a crap shoot based on genetic makeup.
On the contrary, we all see what happened when she said yes. A lot of people died. A galaxy suffered. Was that her fault? I would argue no. But her actions could have prevented it.
Still the same, Shmi did what she deemed best for her child, which in all honesty is all anyone can ask. Basically she sent him to boarding school because she thought it would provide him the brightest future. She sent him to live with Qui-Gon, a father if you will, because he could provide a better life. Speaking as someone who grew up with a mother who was sick and really unable to raise a child to be a successful adult, I just cannot fault Shmi. At the end of the day she loved her son and wanted the best for him, even to the point of sacrificing her own happiness for it. One cannot fault her for her humility, but one most certainly can wonder.
Bail and Breha Organa
Possibly the epitome of Star Wars parent goals: the Organas. Although little is really known about the what and how of the Organas raised their adopted daughter, if we are judging based off of product alone Leia is a pretty good outcome.
The recent Ahsoka novel shed some light onto at least Bail’s role in Leia’s life. It certainly was an involved role that he played, and one can only assume that Breha was the same. It seems, according to the novel, that Bail spends quality time and is raising her in a warming and positive environment. Millions in the galaxy would kill to have what she had. In fact, her biological father did.
Speaking of, he sheltered her from her real father, which I think is something that can be universally agreed on as a good idea. But even more than that, from all appearances Leia never really desired to know because she was so well taken care of. There is very little shock when Luke reveals her heritage, likely because of her upbringing giving her the center that she needed. She knew who her family was
Once more, I can speak from experience on this particular point. My biological grandfather walked out on my dad, and I have only met him a couple of times. Suffice to say, I don’t really know the man. However, my “step” grandad was around since my birth and treated me like one of his own, despite the fact that he had plenty of his own grandkids. He gave me a sense of belonging that proved love is thicker than blood, and to this day one of the statues he earned for his service to our country sits on my nightstand as a reminder of the type of man I desire to become one day. If I were to venture a guess, I would say Leia feels the same about Bail (see Bloodline for more on that).
Much like Shmi, the Organas were willing to do whatever it took to make sure their child became the best person possible.
First assumption: terrible parent. He is Darth Vader, after all. And those younglings, I mean come on.
Of course, trying to turn your son into an evil dictator, plus cutting off his hands, doesn’t make for the best role model. And the whole torturing your daughter on top of that. But he does teach us a very valuable lesson (and no it’s not what you’re thinking).
Vader lived a terrible life for decades, but in the final moments of Return of the Jedi he does what needs to be done so that light may prevail. He saves his son from certain death.
Parenting is not easy. Kids are difficult, confusing, and sometimes just completely irrational. But on the other hand they have far more emotional intelligence than we give them credit for, and it is that love that allows for a parent as terrible as Vader to, at the end of the day, do what is right by his/her family.
Star Wars has always been a story of hope and redemption. Whether you are a parent, teacher, or any other form of leader, you are going to need that someday. So make sure you give it,too.