Hey, here is a sentence that will not shock you if you're a Game of Thrones fan: Cersei Lannister is a pretty controversial character. Though no one would ever deny Cersei Lannister's parenting is a clear indication that she loves her children, the jury's still out on whether the end justifies the means, if you know what I'm sayin'. Some might say Cersei Lannister is a feminist icon. Others would vehemently disagree. But no one can dispute the fact that the Queen Regent refuses to let the fact that she's a woman limit her power, and I think we're all well aware that she'll stop at nothing to get what she wants. Although her track record as a mom isn't exactly perfect, she did manage to push two of her three kids into becoming king, so I figure she must be doing something right, plus her hair and outfits always looks amazing, so I figure Cersei, despite all the bloodshed and that whole incest thing, kinda has a good thing going.
Parenting may not be as deadly as playing the game of thrones, but that doesn't mean it's easy. Because Cersei is so adept at both, I decided to try and borrow some of her parenting skills to see how her parenting style would transfer to the real world as opposed to the Seven Kingdoms.
I spent a week trying to parent like Cersei (minus the whole having my head shaved, sleeping with my brother, seducing my cousin, and having my kids mercilessly killed by my enemies part) to see if acting like a Lannister would make me a more confident parent.
Here's what happened.
Day 1: Raise Them To Be Royal
Even though Cersei has had moments when she admitted that Joffrey was a monster, for the most part she turns a blind eye to his most flagrant misbehaviors. I'm usually the first one to step in a tell my kids to stop doing something, even when it's something some other parents might chalk up to "typical 3-year-old behavior," like singing in a store. I don't want my kids to annoy anyone else, so I like to think I'm pretty on top of trying to monitor their behavior, especially when we aren't in a place that's specifically designed for children.
My partner and I took the kids to a late afternoon movie in the middle of the week because they haven't been to many movies and we were hoping the crowds would be small so we'd disturb fewer people if the boys acted out. Sure enough, there were fewer than 10 other people in the entire theater and the only other people in our row were a dad with two young kids of his own.
About halfway through the film Lolo started getting fidgety and wanted to stand in front of my chair. My instinct was to force him to sit with me or take him out of the theater, but Cersei would never do that. She would hold her head high and dare anyone to comment on her child's behavior, and when no one was looking she'd hiss in her child's ear to behave or else she'd send him to live in Flea Bottom with the orphans.
I decided to tell Lolo he had three chances to settle down or I was taking him home, and if anyone said anything to us, so be it. There wasn't anyone sitting directly in front of us, so since he couldn't drop popcorn on anyone's head I let him stand there, even though he technically wasn't supposed to. I felt the dad down the row look over at us a few times and even had a "he's not hurting anyone" speech prepared in my head in case an usher said anything to us, but no one did.
It felt good to be the indulgent parent for a change, and I walked out of that movie like my family owned Westeros. That's not to say I'm going to let my kids do whatever they want, but I'm learning that once in a while it's OK to bend the rules. I felt like a proud and fierce momma lion, Lannister-style. Now when my kids act out in public, I ask myself what Cersei would do.
Day 2: Put Your Children First
If you're dumb enough to try and discipline Cersei's children, she will cut you. Well, actually she'll order one of the King's Guard to do it, but either way, you're in big trouble. In my home, far from Westeros, my friends and family are really good about letting my partner and I parent our own way, but when it comes to strangers I have a tendency to try and play nice when stepping in to defend my kids. If we're at the playground and another child takes something from one of my kids without asking, rather than say something to the child or their parents I'll just move my kids to another area to avoid a confrontation. Avoiding a scene seems like the most important thing in the moment, but afterwards I always feel guilty for not standing up for my boys.
This week, however, with Cersei as my guiding light, I took the boys to playtime at the library. Remy was quietly playing with a puzzle when another little boy just walked up and pulled it right out of his hands without a please or even a, "Can I have a turn?" Since Cersei would never let that fly, I reached out and took the puzzle back and said, "No, he wasn't done playing with that."
The little boy looked at me in shock and ran off, presumably to find his mom, but I was still a little bit chicken and refused to look directly at her for the rest of the play period, cutting the chances of her making eye contact with me in half so that she wouldn't be able to yell at me. Still, it felt really good to step up for my kid, and maybe next time I'll have the courage to hold my head high afterwards. I had always been very wary of doing anything that could be seen as disciplining another's child, but when I realized that Cersei would only look at the situation in terms of her own children, that she would see this as an act of defending her kids first and foremost, I suddenly felt more comfortable with speaking up to someone else's kid.
Day 3: Rule With A Whisper
It pains me to admit it, but I'm yeller (I'm also a curser, but that's an entirely different story). My default method of trying to get my kids to listen to me is to ask them once, perhaps twice, and after that I go straight from Mary Poppins to the Incredible Hulk. But even though yelling makes me feel better (sometimes), it doesn't actually increase the likelihood that my kids will do what I've asked.
Cersei, on the other hand, is a total boss at keeping her frustrations bottled up to unleash at just the right moment. Because she doesn't lose her cool very often, when she does, the person facing her wrath takes proper notice.
Instead of yelling at the kids when they took my request that they clean up more as a light suggestion, or when they got tired and tried to turn the couch into a combination vault/MMA ring, I stood quietly with a look of disapproval on my face while screaming on the inside. After a while the silence creeped them out and they chilled out. Because I yelled less, when I actually did raise my voice this week (when Lolo tried to climb out of the shopping cart at the store), he was shocked enough to listen.
The nice thing about Cersei's method of quiet disapproval was that my throat wasn't raw by the end of the day, which is actually very common. And it reminded me of the pursed lip look of rage that my own mom would give me when I acted out as a kid in public and she didn't want to yell at me in front of strangers. That being said, working to prevent myself from yelling left me stressed out and exhausted by the time the kids feel asleep. All of my frustration from the day was pent up inside me and I needed to get it out before I picked a stupid fight with my husband over nothing. Which leads me to the next rule of parenting like Cersei...
Day 4: Act Like A Queen
Admitting this may get me kicked out of the mom club, but I'm not really a big drinker. I'll have a glass of wine at big family gatherings or on a holiday, but if I'm going to treat myself, I prefer a pastry. But Cersei has a tolerance that would give Lil' Wayne a run for his money, and I knew that to get the true Lannister parenting experience I was going to have to crack open that bottle of white that's been sitting in the back of the fridge since October.
For some unknown reason I'm sure an astrologer could explain to me, Tuesdays are routinely the worst day of my week. It's the day when things are most likely to be hectic at work, when I forget to defrost the chicken I was going to make for dinner, and the day when my children tend to act more like Urkel than Steven. This Tuesday was no different, so after the kids fell asleep I poured myself a hard-earned glass and tried to relax.
It felt decadent and somewhat taboo to be drinking without something to celebrate, and I did indeed feel the tension in my shoulders release the more I let myself unwind. I see now why lots of parents do this, but I don't know that my headache the next day was worth it, so I'm sticking to cupcakes, since for me they're just as rewarding.
Day 5: Put Your Children Above All Else
Cersei and Jamie have that whole incestuous on-again, off-again thing going on, but even Jamie knows that Cersei would stab him in the chest without hesitation if it meant protecting one of her kids. Because I have major anxiety over death, thinking about whether I'd save my partner or kids first from a burning building is a one-way ticket to a panic attack (hang on, I need to go breathe into a bag... OK, back), so I translated the idea of putting my kids first as siding with them over my partner whenever there was a disagreement over what they should eat, how many Band-Aids they could have for an invisible boo-boo, or when they had to go to bed.
It was kind of fun to be the "cool parent" and give my kids jelly beans after their dad said no, but putting my kids' needs before my partner's did not do any favors for our relationship. We usually have a pretty united front when it comes to the kids, so although these little micro transgressions didn't cause a big fight, there was definitely a distance between us every time I disregarded what he wanted in favor what the the boys did. I can see how over time this could cause a big issue in our marriage, so I backed off after just a couple days and blamed my behavior on watching to many episodes of Game of Thrones before bed.
Putting your kids before your partner works for Cersei because when her husband annoyed her enough she just has him killed and went on raising the kids by herself like it was no big thing. But for me, I actually love my partner and want him to stick around for many, many years as my co-parent and main squeeze. Cersei is able to put her kids' needs before anyone else's because she doesn't love anyone else as much as she loves them, but since I really do love my partner I feel compelled to take his opinions and needs into consideration.
Is Cersei Lannister A Parenting Role Model?
Surprisingly, yes. Even though she spawned the monster that was Joffrey and sent her daughter off to the Sand Snakes, Cersei's a badass mom who's doing the best she can given her surrounding circumstances and place in society. However, as much as Cersei adores her kids, she also knows how important it is not to lose sight of her personal goals and dreams. When talking to Sansa about motherhood, Cersei cautions her:
The more people you love, the weaker you are. You'll do things for them you know you shouldn't do. You'll act the fool to make them happy; to keep them safe. Love no one but your children. On that front a mother has no choice.
I may not agree with her choice of beverage or opinion of Tyrion (in case you're wondering, I'm #teamTyrion for life) but if someone who sees me interacting with my kids tells me I remind them of Cersei, I'll take it as a compliment.