Parenting Lessons from Kanan Jarrus: How Star Wars Rebels Helped Me Grow as a Mom
The Star Wars saga is about many things: family, found family, faith, peace, redemption. One of my favorite themes is family. And my favorite iteration of family in Star Wars is the Ghost family in Star Wars Rebels. An argument could be made that the Ghost family is the most functional family we see in Star Wars. They aren't perfect, but Rebels regularly shows healthy relationships, how to maintain them, and how to repair them. Kanan in particular has taught me a lot about being a parent. It is an understatement to say his past in traumatic: fighting in a war, seeing his Jedi Master murdered before his eyes, shot down by clone soldiers he thought of as brothers, surviving all manner of scrapes and situations. In season one, Kanan is clearly still fighting his demons: survivor's guilt, doubt and insecurity about his own path and abilities. And then Ezra comes along. In discovering Ezra's latent Force abilities, Kanan has to confront his own past, his own insecurities. Kanan doesn't start out as a strong teacher--he tries to control Ezra, is critical when he can't control Ezra's actions, he is fearful of the outcome. What if Ezra turns to the Dark Side? How can Kanan train someone to be a Jedi when his own training was never completed? After a failed attempt to find Ezra a new teacher (the episode Rise of the Old Masters) Kanan has grasped a new understanding of Yoda's famous saying "Do, or do not. There is no try." Move past the fear, past the insecurity. And do.
I remember when I became a mom. The experience was truly transformative. I know it has been said before, but it was true for me; the love was overwhelming, but so was the fear. I knew I loved my baby so fiercely I would do anything. I also was scared (and pretty sure) I would ruin her life. As my kids have aged, I've become more confident and learned to trust my mom instincts, but I still struggle with doubt; doing my best but fearing deep down that it isn't good enough. Kanan's first step of accepting his role as Ezra's teacher, is of accepting his own shortcomings, accepting himself. I know I am a better parent (and person) when I accept myself and instead of trying to be the parent I'm not, just be the person I am. Let go of the fear, and do.
Kanan's struggles with trusting Ezra, and his teaching of Ezra continue into season two; arguably contributing to his blinding by Maul. The after-effects of this: Kanan's own grief, Ezra's guilt about his injury (no doubt similar to Kanan's about the loss of his master), and Ezra's dabbling into the Dark Side show another way that Kanan has served as a parenting role model for me.
Kanan took time to himself to heal. Some may criticize this as selfish, but it only makes sense to me that Kanan would need time alone to cope with his change in circumstances. Indeed, this solitary time allows him to find a new mentor: the Bendu, who opens to Kanan a new way of existing in the Force. Here Kanan learns to trust Ezra in a new way. From this point on, Kanan and Ezra's relationship is on another level. Kanan is much more focused on his own journey than in trying to control the outcome of Ezra's. He acknowledges that there are lessons that Ezra needs to learn on his own: that there are mistakes that Ezra will make. Instead of trying to prevent these failures, Kanan demonstrates to Ezra how to recover from these missteps. And I've noticed that Ezra listens in response.
I'm inspired to do the same. Instead of trying to prevent my children from experiencing negative things, from feeling sad, I'm serving them much better if they are allowed to own their own choices with me there to guide along the way. A conscious choice to avoid unnecessary interference has allowed my kids to grow.
In Trials of the Darksaber Kanan's teaching of Sabine taught me that collaboration with a trusted ally can help you gain perspective. Kanan consults with Hera about Sabine's lack of progress, then puts her suggestions into practice. The outcome had many of us in tears. Kanan acknowledges his mistake to Sabine, apologizes, then respects her enough to not only give her the weapon, but to push her towards her truth. And to offer his support to her regardless of her choice. Sabine knows she has a family that has her back, no matter what. What greater gift can a parent give their child?
Kanan has helped me grow as a parent. I now find myself paying extra attention to his interactions and finding tidbits of wisdom that are surprisingly apt for a 36-year old watching a show that airs on Disney XD. Kanan's respectful, caring treatment of his family is educational and inspirational. He listens and truly hears, he speaks truth with humility and love, he offers unconditional love and acceptance while spurring others on to become their best selves. May I do the same.
Do you have a role model in Star Wars? Who is it? How do they inspire you?