In my last post, I talked about the importance of being mentors to our kids. Tomorrow is Tolkien Reading Day, and Tolkien’s works are a good reminder of the power of stories in our lives. The Lord of the Rings has become a cultural touchstone for many reasons, but primarily because it is a superbly crafted story. More important for our discussion, the story of Frodo and his friends in that book offers reassurance that ordinary people can be good mentors.
I must admit that I often don’t feel like the wise and skilled mentor in all of the great stories. Most of the time, I feel more like a hobbit — ordinary, less persuasive than other pressures on my kids, and not at all skillful or powerful. Tolkien’s stories of hobbits are a good reminder that we don’t have to have great wisdom or skill; we can help our kids even when all we can offer them is love and persistence. What I like to call “persistent caring” can be the best gift we can give to our children.
The heroes of Tolkien’s story are hobbits, literally smaller than anyone else, who prefer comfort over adventure and ordinary pleasures over grand ambitions. They are intentionally, even relentlessly, ordinary. Yet they succeed in their quest where none of the other characters could prevail. As one of the great characters explains it, “small hands do [great deeds] because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.”
The core of the hobbits’ relationship, and their success, is their persistent friendship for each other. In one pivotal scene, when the wise men are putting together the company that will start on the quest, the hobbits secure their spot simply by insisting. As one of them says, “You will have to lock me in prison, or send me home tied in a sack. For otherwise I shall follow the Company.”
I always find this part of The Lord of the Rings inspiring and reassuring. We don’t have to be wise and powerful people to help our kids. Of course, it is good to learn what we can and to work on being patient, understanding, and more empathetic. But we don’t have to measure up to a lofty standard in order to be good mentors. We can be small and ordinary, like hobbits, as long as we are wiling to insist on walking alongside our kids.
It is easy to overlook the value of persistent caring, because the job of parenting children with trauma can be daunting. There always is something else that we need to do or more that we need to be. Our skills often seem completely inadequate to the task. Yet, don’t overlook the value of just being there and caring for our children. As Tolkien said through one of his characters, we often need “to trust rather to friendship than to great wisdom.”