Two sides of the whole

I often try to look into my son’s soul, to understand who this growing, independent person is.

I’m not always sure what I’m seeing.

The times he spends with me one-on-one, he can be insightful, even wise; he comes up with solutions I can’t, he applies the things I tell him in unexpected ways.

Of course he can be silly, too, and manages to drag out descriptions of the perfect goal (his or someone else’s, doesn’t matter) to the point that I completely loose track of the subject. But for the most part, he is and has been for as long as I can remember, a fun little companion. I’m always reassured when parents volunteering at the school or hosting him for sleepovers say the same thing.

Then there are the reports from camps, teachers, some extracurricular activities. Tales of a bright but disruptive boy who does what he can to be the centre of attention. Pleas to me to remind him to be less silly, less overwhelming.

He’s not bad, they say, and yet the calls and emails do express some frustration. Are these systems simply not set up for rambunctious boys? Is this just the norm, something parents of boys have heard for generations? Do I, on those days that I worry about it, just take it all too much to heart?

I think about this question a lot, this “who is this person?” question. I try to look past the version of him that he offers me when it’s just us, when he has this adult’s full attention. I try to see who he truly is.

But the view I have of him is unreliable. It is shadowed by my own perceptions – of him, of life, of myself – and by the light he chooses to shed on parts of himself, while stowing the other parts in the darkness, just out of my sight.

And maybe that’s ok. Maybe that’s the way a person develops their independence, their sense of self. This could be an important process I’ve been watching unfold.

I’m thinking about all of this as I lie in bed, looking at the night sky through our open blind. The moon is a thin sliver tonight, just barely rising above the skyline. I can see its dark side, too, but only just. Venus shines brightly higher up in the sky.

I am struck by the beauty of the thin sliver as it floats serenely, glowing golden, so thin, its dark side glows, too, if darkness can glow. It’s a simple, everyday sight, easy to look at without seeing, to take for granted. But every now and then if you really stop and look you see more, you see the deeper things in that orb.

I’m really looking now, and it’s hard to be sure about any of the details I think I see in that mostly-dark side. It is a darkness that is pregnant and full and seems to threaten to overwhelm the small sliver of light floating along attached to it.

Before I have a chance to find out whether the darkness will win or if that bit of brightness can hold on and grow, the moon touches down on the roof of the cityscape. Then, so quickly I almost wonder if it was ever even there, it slips behind the buildings and disappears, leaving only Venus shining brightly – easily mistaken for a large, vibrant star – in the expanse of night.

All of these things – the moon, Venus, my son – are perceived differently from the way they actually are. The observer will never see its subject the way the subject sees itself. We can only watch from our own perspective.

Venus is not a star.

The moon is in darkness because it is shadowed by us. The only parts we mere mortals know are those parts we manage to see when we get out of the way and let the sun shine on them, however fleetingly.

Like the moon, there are multiple aspects to people; we can never know them the way they know themselves. We can’t be sure whether they are more darkness or more light, or simply different than our perceptions.

The best we can do is stand back, appreciate the beauty, observe what we can see, and let as much of who they are shine back at us.

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10 thoughts on “Two sides of the whole

  1. This is so purely your thoughts written down. I would tell you not to worry about him. But I know from personal experience that you can’t tell a worrier to stop.

    • Ha. Ya. I’m not so private – and I like trying to get to the the heart of what I’m thinking. I did go back after my first draft and try to make it more positive, but you obviously see right through me. 🙂 As for the worrying, I try to stop but as you say it’s totally impossible.

  2. I can so relate to your beautiful post, makes me want to shed a tear a bit. As you know, having a son the same age, they are complicated little creatures. When my son went to pre-k for the first time, maybe that year when he was around 4, we were giving “the talk”from the school about this child we had never experienced in our house. And that disconnect between the house, and how they may behave or be perceived by others is hard to believe, but real. And now at 10, there are the subtle independent leanings: mom, don’t touch my hair. Mom, I don’t like those jeans….Mom, I don’t want to do that–do you think I need to be like everyone else? I don’t want to. For us at least, I’m seeing more and more of that mind, independent of me, taking over and as parents, it’s probably good we are there to see the good, and coach/provide tools to handle the not-so-good so at least they will learn. I try–not always successful but hope it clicks in one day. Boys are definitely tougher to handle, from what I hear, than girls (at least at this age)….

    • Thanks, Robin. It’s great that your school gave you that heads up. It seems every educator and institution we’ve encountered hasn’t even realized there is that dichotomy, never mind thinking it through enough to talk to parents about it. What a revelation! Having a dual-personality kid isn’t abnormal!? I’m hoping the boy thing will be easier as they get older, less games and more straightforward than girls maybe, or than the way mine is now? I don’t know, I’m only really able to compare to myself as I was an only child, and he’s one too.

  3. I love the connections you make here. So many directions of thought, so many resonances, but all poetically connected. The description of the moon is divine.
    I won’t get started on the mother-child thing (with society’s expectations thrown in)–my own thoughts and feelings on the subject(s) are too chaotic–but writing about it helps!

    • Thank you, Jenn. It started with the moon!
      And yes, writing sort of helps to sort out what I’m thinking – it’s more manageable when I see it on the page – but generally “chaotic” is how I’d describe it as well. There’s emotion and perception and all those expectations thrown into the mix.

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