T and I had a rough morning recently, and it was entirely my fault. He was flipping out, for sure—screaming and punching himself in the head because I asked him to fold his laundry. But that’s not what made it rough. What made it rough was that I tried to use logic against a traumatized 9-year-old.
As he screamed and threw clothes around the room I looked at him and said, “Every time you do this, it ends poorly for you. You know that, right?”
But questions like that don’t work. They’ve never been helpful or effective. In the part of my brain that is calm and rational, I know that. I know better than to engage these conversations. But sometimes I’m just mad. And sometimes I just want the screaming to stop.
Logic doesn’t make screaming stop, though. And so each time I do it, I am setting myself up for failure. Instead of less screaming, there was more. Instead of inciting peace, we entered into additional chaos. And on this particular morning we were running late, too, of course—which added to the stress and anxiety we were both feeling.
So as we got in the car to leave, we were both still dripping with our failed attempts at communication and resolution.
In fact, T was still wiping the tears from his eyes when he piped up from the backseat in a calm, level voice:
“Amy? Hey, Amy? I would like to give you an example of a time I was feeling like the IT was growing inside of me.”
I was too dumbfounded to respond, so he continued.
“You know what I mean, Amy? The IT? From A Wrinkle in Time?”
I did, of course, know what he was talking about.
I don’t like movies that much, but I love books, and T and I read a lot. So when the movie for A Wrinkle in Time came out, I took T to the theater to see it, mostly so I could convince him to read the book with me.
That was over a month ago. And on the way home from the theater T told me he was scared of the IT and The Black Thing. So we talked about it. We talked about light and dark—about good and bad. We talked about the fact that we all have some good and some not-so-good inside of us. We talked about how different people use different words to talk about that stuff. We talked about how God and Satan were words he felt comfortable using, but that other people might choose different words.
And we talked about how even when we feel like the IT—like the evil, the darkness—is growing inside of us, it doesn’t make us evil. Just like love was more powerful than the IT in the movie, love is more powerful in us, too.
I always feel small and inadequate during conversation like that. I feel like I’m just saying words, hoping he doesn’t walk away feeling more confused by what I said or didn’t say.
But on that really hard day, from the backseat, as he wiped his tears, T continued: “My example is this morning, Amy. This morning I felt like the IT from A Winkle in Time was growing inside of me. But now I feel like it’s shrinking again. When it grows in me I feel myself making bad choices. I’m sorry about that, Amy—about my bad choices. It’s shrinking now. The IT is shrinking. I just wanted you to know.”
And, in an instant, my anger and frustration melted away. Instead, I felt humbled and ashamed and proud and speechless and filled with amazing gratitude for this journey and for this little, wise life that has been entrusted to my care for this season.