“Mom, why did God make shadows?” This from the mouth of a 3-year-old obsessed lately with the dark, ominous shape that has been following him around since the sun began shining a few weeks back. His wondering never fails to prompt a pause from me, his all-knowing mother who must help him make sense of the world that I, myself, cannot fully comprehend. The day prior, he’d discovered, much to his delight, that an ant had crawled into his shadow. “Look, Mommy, there’s a bug in my shadow.” “Mommy, it walked out of my shadow.” “Mommy, I got it back in my shadow!” Although a small feat perhaps, my youngest had discovered a way he could manipulate the typically unmovable world at his feet; how he could capture an unknowing ant in his large, scary, monster shadow, and how the helpless ant could do nothing but continue walking into the dark unknown. My little guy had become invincible for a moment as he turned that black, undefined blob mimicking his shape into something he could control at will. He was, for a moment, ruler of the bug world.
In times like these, I wonder how anyone can fail to see the wonder in the job of being a parent. Yes, often the work is arduous, fruitless, an emotional vacuum cleaner sucking up every last reserve. But just when things seem to be going dry again, becoming a little too thankless, one of those little ones slips in a big question that stops you dead in your tracks, pulling you out of the mundane and into the magnificent. In that moment, gratitude comes fast and refreshingly, thankfully. And the reserve bottle is filled up to near capacity once again.
I dread the day a shadow will be, once again, only a shadow. For now, it’s shadow dancing for the kids and me.