I went for a picturesque walk with my 7-year old son last night in perfect snow, through our enchanted-looking neighborhood, to a beloved sledding spot that felt like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
It looked beautiful. And it was beautiful. But it was also hard.
As we walked, my boy and I were making our way back to each other after a particularly nasty interaction that preceded the magical night at the sledding hill.
“Joe,” I said. “I’m really sorry you had to see the worst of me tonight. I was grumpy and it wasn’t your fault.”
He is often quiet and reserved during reconciliations, and I felt my words being muffled by the deep snow. I wanted him to hear me. I needed him to know I regretted the stinging, bitter interaction that had happened earlier.
I wanted him to understand how I’d felt hijacked, possessed, not like my true self. And that my behavior back home didn’t at all represent the love and affection and adoration I actually feel for him.
I opened my mouth to say something more but he cut me off.
“Mom, maybe part of you is with The Dark Side.”
I stopped walking and stared at him, my mouth gaping, eyes wide, unsure if I was about to laugh or cry or re-enter the hijacked state from before.
Seriously? Was he comparing me to the evil Darth Vader and his host of detestable cronies? The darkest and most despised force that exists in his 7-year-old schema?
For the better part of a decade I have devoted my body, mind, heart and soul to this child and his siblings. In fact, the catalyst for this conversation was an event that highlighted my role in our household, which frequently resembles that of maid, waitress and servant, while the requests from my children often come across in rude and thankless ways.
I fumbled for what to say next. I turned and re-capped the conversation to my husband who was a few feet behind us and trying to reel in our free-spirited middle child from dawdling in a snowdrift. He didn’t offer much feedback.
I find parenting challenging, but I’m not often speechless.
And then it occurred to me that the reason for my befuddled and clumsy grasping for response was due to the fact that I recognized truth in what my son had said.
Wasn’t this what I had wanted to get across to him? The idea that I had felt overcome by some kind of power that I didn’t understand but that felt awful and mean and even evil? Hadn’t I experienced the choking grip of something not really me, but somehow part of me at the same time, during that bad interaction?
I ended up laughing, and I told him that yes, part of me might be with the Dark Side. Because it was the most honest thing I could say to him in response.
Maybe it’s ok that my kid knows I’m part Vader. I don’t like how I behaved that evening and I’m embarrassed. But in all honesty I was doing my best, and we made our way back. Would an all light mom be very exciting? Or honest? Or real?
And then there’s the fact that I know my kids have their own dark sides…ones they’ll need to learn to notice and acknowledge and forgive and learn from eventually. Something not their true selves but part of them nonetheless.
Beauty can come in so many forms. The white snow on the black night. The light that finds a dark place in which to live. The shadowy corner that offers refuge and safety until the time is right to come out in the open. A boy’s hand in his mom’s and the words between them sinking into snow. Dark sides acknowledged and embraced and learned from and released again.