In honor of the 20th anniversary of Lord of the Rings debuting in theaters, I started to binge-watch the epic trilogy with my son while he was on Spring Break. LOTR is a visual effects artist’s dream. The effects were years ahead of their time, and the movie industry recognized their accomplishments.
For instance, when we got to the second movie, The Two Towers, I had to step out of the room to take a phone call. When I returned, I found my son covering his ears and closing his eyes.
The movie was showing Gollum creepily following Frodo and Sam. He looked so real that my son didn’t want to watch (for now). Fortunately, I calmed him down and reminded him that it wasn’t real.
Like Gandalf looking over the hobbits, I, too, was looking over my son. This moment made me think of other parenting lessons that Gandalf can teach.
Below are ten quotes from Gandalf from LOTR and The Hobbit. Like magic, I transfer his wisdom into parenting advice. There are numerous LOTR jokes hidden in the article. If you need one explained to you, I know where your fandom lies.
Jump ahead to
1. “Let the ring bearer decide.” (The Fellowship of the Ring)
Kids are clever. Although one parent gave them an explicit instruction, the child will ask the other parent the same question if they didn’t get the answer they wanted initially. Parents need to be united when making decisions, including discipline and not catching us off guard when your little one tries some trickery.
Thus, the lesson fathers here can learn to give the safest response possible, “What did your mom say?”
2. “I must rest here a moment, even if all the orcs ever spawned are after us.” (The Fellowship of the Ring)
Kids will throw tantrums, and no matter how much love you try to show them, they’ll still find a reason to erupt like the volcanoes of Mount Doom.
Heed the advice of Gandalf: “Rest.” In other words, take a break or even step out of the room. Trade time with a spouse so you can catch your breath.
3. “You must settle its affairs yourselves; that is what you have been trained for. Do you not yet understand? My time is over: it is no longer my task to set things to rights, nor to help folk to do so.” (The Return of the King)
As parents, we wish we can always take care, provide, and protect our children. However, we’ll do our children a disservice if we do everything for them. Our responsibility as parents is to guide and team them. The hope is that we have taught them enough to be independent and self-sufficient human beings.
As seen in The Two Towers, give Gollum a fish, feed him for a day. Teach Gollum how to fish, feed him for the rest of his life.
4. “Only a small part is played in great deeds by any hero.” (The Fellowship of the Ring)
Being a parent can sometimes feel like a thankless job. No one may see the sacrifices you make, such as waking up early to prepare breakfast or pack lunches. However, your motivation is not to impress other people. Instead, your goal is to help your kids have the best day possible.
So, don’t feel bad if no one is chanting your praise. When your kid comes home and greets you with a hug, you’ve achieved victory!
5. “Courage will now be your best defense against the storm that is at hand-—that and such hope as I bring.” (The Return of the King)
Some parents “luck out” if their newborn that sleeps through the night. On the other hand, other parents have to work on sleep training their baby. This task can be difficult, especially if you have a witching hour baby or if the child wakes up after three hours.
As Gandalf mentioned, what you need now is courage and patience. There are several strategies you can attempt to get your baby to sleep, such as swaddling them or giving them a warm bath before bedtime.
Though sleep training could take months, don’t give up. Have courage!
6. “The wise speak only of what they know.” (The Two Towers)
Bless the hearts of everyone who is offering to help you, including all the grandparents. Never decline help if it gives you a chance to recharge or eat a meal. However, when it comes to “giving advice,” sometimes their “suggestions” can be discouraging and overwhelming, even if meant with good intentions.
Therefore, as a parent, sometimes you just need to trust your instincts. Whether you read tips from a book or watch vloggers on YouTube, you alone have a unique relationship with your child. Listen to your heart and trust yourself!
7. “The treacherous are ever distrustful.” (The Two Towers)
Whether or not our children pursue lucrative careers, we ultimately want for them to grow up to be decent human beings. We want them to be kind and respectful people. For this reason, parents continually remind their children to say “Please” and “Thank you.” We hope that our children build good habits and manners to develop good character.
Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, “Bad company can ruin good character,” or as Gandalf says it, “The treacherous are ever distrustful.”
Therefore, it’s essential to be mindful of the other kids your child is spending time with. Do those kids have good character? Or, do they have qualities or habits that could “rub off” on your kid?
If your child misbehaves in a way that you can’t find at home, then you’ll have to wonder how they are learning this bad behavior and from whom they are learning it.
8. “It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not.” (The Fellowship of the Ring)
Before we had kids, we had ideas or dreams about whom we wanted our child to be. Unfortunately, there are some things that children have no interest in pursuing, and that’s okay.
It’s essential to manage your expectations and not compare yourself to other parents. Only you alone know your kids, and no one else sees your sacrifices. There is no taking score when it comes to parenting.
Your only concern should be if you’re winning with your children and raising them the best way you can. Celebrate the victories of parenting with quality family time, such as playing a board game.
9. “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (The Fellowship of the Ring)
No matter how old our children become or where they choose to move to, they will always be our babies. Time will pass so quickly that you’ll wonder where the time went. So, while they are small enough, take the time to snuggle them. And, if they are too heavy to lift now, take advantage of every moment to show your love for them.
10. “It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.” (Return of the King)
Kids are naturally testing their boundaries. Even when they were newborns, they won’t stay in a Moses basket for too long. It’s our responsibility to help them understand the world around them, especially if they cross the line.
However, parenting is not binary but rather a journey. You’ll achieve some victories and gain new experiences (good or bad). So, take hold of life’s mission as a parent as you journey through this Middle-earth.