How the Father-Son Dynamic Between Kanan and Ezra Speaks to the Complexities of Parenting

In advance of Father's Day, author -- and dad -- Michael Moreci looks at lessons we can learn from the Star Wars Rebels Jedi/Padawan duo.

Being a parent is one of the hardest jobs in the galaxy. It’s physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing; there’s no training in the world that can prepare you for it, and your duties change by the day. You spend so much time looking at this little human, who in so many ways is a mirror reflection of you, and because of that, you understand what they’re going through. And yet — you can somehow never convey your experiences and knowledge to them in a way that enables them to learn what you already know. It’s a maddening position to be in.

It’s also why I love the dynamic between Kanan and Ezra in Star Wars Rebels so very much.

Kanan’s relationship to Ezra is identical to any parent and their child: The fundamental job is to protect your children and teach them what you know. Which seems easy enough, only it’s not. It never is. On paper, Kanan seems like the ideal person to take Ezra under his wing. He’s a Jedi; Ezra has the potential to be a Jedi as well. All Kanan needs to do is teach Ezra what he knows — but he can’t. Not at first, at least. Kanan struggles time and time again to reach Ezra, he struggles to get him to learn — and master — what he needs to know. He struggles to get Ezra to become him. And that’s where he — and many parents, myself included — fail. And it’s in this failure where real parenting begins.

Kanan and Ezra in Star Wars Rebels.

Our children are us, but they’re not us. The easiest way to get them to learn is by getting them to do what we do, exactly the way we do it. There would be nothing easier than to mold them to be copies of ourselves. Our children, though, are their own people, thoroughly, and it’s hard to meet them on their terms. But, it’s essential, and I’ve learned this from both my experience as a parent and through Star Wars. Kanan is only able to reach Ezra when he finally learns to surrender to what Ezra needs. Even though Ezra and Kanan share a deep bond through their connection to the Force, the path that led Kanan doesn’t work for Ezra; Ezra needs guidance that’s specific to who he is as a person. When Kanan recognizes this, Ezra’s able to learn and grow — and a funny thing happens along the way: Kanan learns and grows, too.

My kids have changed me in more ways than I can ever imagine. I’ve learned patience and selflessness, humility, and flexibility. Like so many parents, I want to pass along everything I know to my two sons, and I want them to have all that knowledge but not the mistakes and hardships that led to its acquisition. But, like Yoda himself said, “the greatest teacher, failure is.” Kanan had to fail Ezra in order to learn how to become the mentor — and father figure — that Ezra needed. I’ve failed my own children, and I’m certain I’ll fail them again. But, like Kanan, there’s lessons to be learned in every failure — lessons and opportunities to grow and to change. And we do so right alongside our children; they touch as us much as we teach them until, one day, “we are what they grow beyond.”

And I’m perfectly okay with that.

Michael Moreci is a comics writer and novelist best known for his sci-fi trilogy Roche Limit. His debut novel, Black Star Renegades, was released in January 2018. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelMoreci.

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