It was a Thursday afternoon 3 days after the season 7 finale of Game of thrones (GOT airs Monday mornings in the Philippines). My 8 year old daughter Ysabella had a Doctor's checkup that day and I was the one scheduled to go with her. I remember being the only Dad in a room with mothers and their kids. The room was small enough for you to hear if anybody started a conversation. Ysabella was busy playing with her gadget, just like the other kids and I was busy reading something on my phone, just like the other parents. There we were side by side not really minding what the other was doing when she asked....
Ysabella – (while playing with her gadget) Daddy, what’s the name of the show that you and Mommy always watch?
@learningman – (reading my sports news) Which one?
Ysabella – (still playing her gadget) The one that you said we can’t watch because it’s not for kids, the one with dragons.
@learningman – (still reading) Oh, Game of Thrones! Yes what about it.
Ysabella – (I noticed that she dropped the gadget) The blonde girl with the short hair, she’s a queen right?
I was still reading but I got curious how she knew the character, I was supposed to ask but I thought maybe she saw it in a preview somewhere. So I answered.
@learningman – Yes that’s correct
Ysabella – Does she have a brother who looks like a knight?
I stopped what I was doing at that point ‘cause I was convinced she didn’t just see a preview.
@learningman – Yes she does. How do you know this? You’re not supposed to watch that show remember?
Ysabella – I know Dad. I didn’t watch it. I just saw and heard them talking when I went inside the family room and you were watching it.
Yes I remember. I did allow her to go inside the room to get some school stuff. I allowed her in because I didn’t anticipate any fight scenes or nudity that she might see. Anyways I answered her question and even gave some context around the conversation of the Lannister twins.
@learningman – Yes. She has a brother who’s a knight. The Queen’s name is Cersei and her brother’s name is Jamie. They’re actually twins! They are getting ready for the war against zombies called white walkers. Sorry you can’t watch this but when you’re old enough. I promise we’ll watch it together.
Ysabella – Okay Dad. Thanks.
I went back to reading and she went back to playing her gadget and just when I thought that it was the end of the conversation she again asked a question.
Ysabella – Daddy I’m confused! I heard the Queen say “I want to talk to my Brother alone” and later on she said “Our son will rule”. And she and her brother talked about their son. How can a brother and a sister have a son?
And I thought this was just going to be another boring day!
I remember seeing grins from moms who were probably fans of GOT and knew what my daughter was talking about and feeling judgment from those who thought I was a bad father for exposing my kid to shows like that. I finally knew how it felt like to be contestant in the difficult round of a game show. Good thing I've always thrived under pressure. So with the spotlight on me in that small room I responded to my daughter
@learningman – I am impressed with how sharp and intelligent you are. We'll talk about it when we get home. I want mommy to be involved in this discussion.
Later that night her mom and I sat her down and explained everything to her. It was a sensitive topic and a lengthy discussion but she understood (with a disgusted look) and I was glad that she heard it from us and not from some random source.
This was truly a unique experience and wanted to share a couple of things I picked up from it.
Avoid the easy way out
I could have handled things differently. I could have told her that she misheard it and make up a story or I could have told her "You're still young and won't understand it" or worse ignore the question, tell her to go back playing her gadget and continue with my reading. While it’s very tempting to use these options (especially no. 2) taking the easy way out has never been my style. Yes it’s true; I could have waited a couple of more years when she’s older to discuss this. But I knew my kid. I knew how intelligent she was and felt really confident that she would understand the subject if properly explained. I felt that I was risking more if I did not discuss it with her and she learned it from some other source.
Controllable vs. Uncontrollable
As a parent, I have come to terms with the fact that I can only do so much in terms of controlling the environment of my children. I mean, she picked up something inside the house easily while I was there, what more when she's outside the house without me. I can never fully control the environment of my children and I fight a losing battle when I try to do so. What I can control however is being available for my children. Whatever time of day, whatever the subject maybe, they know that they can call, text, IM or come to me and talk.
Make the right choice
Being available for your children is a choice. It seems like an easy choice but it’s a choice not often made. Why? It’s not an easy route to take. You have to be willing to invest time and energy to make it work. If you’re not being available for your children, it’s because you choose not to. It’s not because of work and you can’t find the time, it’s not because he or she’s a millennial and you don’t know how to relate. Those are just excuses.
So what choice are you making today?