Being a parent means approaching life in a way that you want your own child to follow. Once my wife and I knew we were going to parents (about 10 years ago!), I realized the old adage, “Do as you’re told, not as you see,” was problematic. I have sometimes felt incapable of sharing my feelings or I’ve bottled things up, uncertain of how to deal with certain aspects of life. Whether it’s talking about my feelings associated with being sad or frustrations with my own failings, I wanted to do better, so my kids would feel comfortable coming to us whenever they wanted. Fortunately, I’ve come to rely on Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) in many facets of my life.
A specific episode of TNG might be a positive resource for parents, where learning to discuss our feelings or approach things honestly might help kids learn how to cope with similar situations.
Season 5, episode 3, of Star Trek: The Next Generation features the first appearance of the titled character Ensign Ro Laren. This episode revolves around a bit of subterfuge as the crew of the Enterprise-D is pulled into the Cardassians’ plot to locate and destroy Bajoran leaders who have been accused of terrorism against the Federation.
Ro Laren is Bajoran and has a troubled past during her first stint with Starfleet, which landed her in prison after being court-martialed, and ultimately resented upon her return to uniform aboard the Enterprise. Despite anyone understanding the full scope of her level of responsibility in those events, many have a very negative view towards Ensign Ro, with the exception of one determined bartender: Guinan.
“My name is Guinan. I tend bar, and I listen.”
Guinan is one of the best characters in Star Trek, and the bond she forms with Ro allows viewers to see beyond the disgruntled attitude either Ro portrays to others or how other characters, like Commander Riker, have shared toward her. Guinan’s first contact, a simple conversation, lets Ro know that she isn’t as alone in the world as she thought. Despite feeling uncertain of her surroundings, or how to handle secret orders from an Admiral who is misleading Captain Picard, one conversation leads her to recognize that friendships and trusting other people are possible.
Trusting Another Enough to Share
A simple interaction between these two characters presents a world of possibilities for Ro. Initially, she grabbed onto an opportunity to leave prison and help Bajorans succeed in their resistance against Cardassian rule. Her inner turmoil comes to a head when she realizes her role in all of it is more than she can handle, since she’s been tasked with going behind everyone’s backs to secretly supply weapons to “the enemy.” Despite not knowing what to do, she’s found a confidant in Guinan who won’t judge her for speaking her mind. She’s allowed to share what’s going on and ask for advice.
Guinan’s friendship allows Ro to seek help in the face of great uncertainty amongst a very dangerous situation. Although we hope our kids never find themselves in harm’s way, the feelings associated with this character are very real and one worth exploring with our children. She admits to feeling alone, conflicted, and there’s a desire to do the right thing despite being told to do the opposite.
As our kids get older, there might be a bit of hesitation to being honest. Whether they’re involved with peer pressure to do something they don’t want to, maybe they’re afraid to approach a teacher about a grade, or simply being nervous to talk to us, whether it’s related to seeking advice, discussing a mistake or not. The challenges of being a kid come into play as they learn and continue to grow up. If they do something and get injured, they might think the same injury will always happen. Experiences might be hampered if they’re not open to trying new things or pushing through difficult times.
Much like Ro’s prior experiences of feeling like an outcast, she didn’t think anything different would ever come of it. The power of finding someone who believes in her is remarkably strong, and although Guinan and Picard are not Ro’s guardians, this episode highlights the importance of opening up to others and being willing to share those insecurities.
“Seems like everybody’s just pulling my strings, you know, like I’ve got no control.”
As a kid, it might feel like they don’t have any control at times. As a parent, we have to ensure we’re doing our best to provide boundaries without hindering them – provide guidance without restricting their self-discovery – to let them be free to make mistakes while having them know they’re always loved. It’s a constant balancing act, one I feel like I’m failing at myself from time to time. But, that’s the point of Ro Laren and highlighting her strength to persevere.
In the face of uncertainty, with an overwhelming sense of isolation, she’s able to find a way to speak her mind and share the worries that have consumed her for a long time.
Finding Friends to Lean On
Ro’s character is quite nuanced, filled with a severely traumatic upbringing, and her ability to open up to Guinan, and ultimately Picard, allows her to gain a foothold back in trusting others, including trusting her own ability to make good decisions. If we learn anything from this episode that’s greatly applicable to parenting, it’s the notion that we want our kids to find their very own Guinan (or Picard).
My wife and I hope that our kids will always feel comfortable coming to one of us with their thoughts, their joys, their hardships, or whatever might come their way. Will that always be the case? Although we hope it will be, we want them to have someone to turn to – and we’ve expressed that to them. We’ve shared that they can come to us about anything, but if they need to chat with their “Nana” or their favorite “Aunt Lolo,” then they know they can reach out to them to talk about anything.
The important thing is that they have people they trust who they can depend on, and knowing that trusted outlet is always there for them. Life can be quite challenging, filled with uncertainty and plenty of Admirals who are looking to use others for their own means, and having that foundation of people to turn to is an important step in being able to deal with life’s difficulties. We always hope for the best, and want nothing more than happiness for our children, but helping to prepare them will hopefully lessen their burdens, if and when they should ever arise.
Are there any moments in Star Trek: The Next Generation that you would highlight to indicate the importance of finding others to be open and honest with? Are you a fan of this episode and Ro Laren’s character? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below! Plus, don’t forget to like and share this with all of your friends over on Facebook and Twitter, and if you want to see more Star Trek content, let us know!
Until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.