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Raising Ren: Through a Mother’s Eyes

Raising Ren: Through a Mother’s Eyes

Star Wars has always been about family and values. It tests the limits, relating to our everyday lives. Star Wars is for everyone: kids, adults, and families of all kinds. That’s what makes it so powerfully beautiful. Relatability. Yes, pick a character, any character. Now, look closely. Find it. Find the characteristic or situation they’re in that’s relatable. Got it? Good. Let’s move on.

As Star Wars grows up, I mean, it’s been over forty years, we grow and evolve with it. Our heroes from back then are now parents and well, older. One, in particular, is a mother — But not just a mother, the mother of the baddest baddie in the galaxy. Ironic, isn’t it? For years she fought to end the darkness, and still, in the end, she wound up raising it. Kylo Ren.

Now, let’s be clear. I do not think Leia is responsible for Ben’s actions. Nor do I cast blame her way, or even Han’s. After all, parenting is a hard job and one of the most thankless jobs one can have. Oh, yes, I speak from experience too. That said, ever since Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I’ve been wondering what it must have been like for Leia to raise a child in the midst of all her duties. Leia is a do-it-yourself kind of gal, definitely not one to pass the buck. In other words, she wouldn’t ask someone to do something that she wouldn’t do herself.

So, as a mom, it’s easy to say that she’d be all in and very hands on. Especially with a child like Ben Solo who has special abilities. Yes, I’m talking about the Force. That quality alone is reason enough for Leia to be extra parental and concerningly cautious. So, yes, I have no doubt Leia would have been an attentive mother throughout Ben’s infant to toddler years, and into adolescence. Although we are parents, we do not have full control of our children. To say that we do is vanity. No one can contain or control life. That’s the illusion. Even for someone as well-rounded as Leia, so in essence, Ben’s destiny is not her’s to command, it rests in the Whills of the Force.

Yes, in no way are our children’s lives predetermined because neither are ours. That said, we, as parents can only hope our parents did a good job with us. This way we can pass on what we have learned to our children. Leia, like Luke, entered the cave, but her’s wasn’t on Dagobah, and it lasted more than a few moments too. Parenthood. A constant rollercoaster of emotional and physical trials, and tribulations. To be honest, it never ends.

We see this play out in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In fact, it’s even more fleshed-out in the novelization by Jason Fry. We see an angry Kylo Ren coming full speed at the Resistance with nothing but destruction on his mind. But, where there is darkness, light is waiting to meet it. That light stands idly by as a beacon of hope. That hope is his mother, Leia. She senses him coming, coming for her. And it that moment, Leia is a mother. Not a General nor the former Senator or the persistent Princess of her younger years. Leia at that precise second is only Ben Solo’s mom. She calls to him with the aid of the Force and in turn, feels his anger. Through that connection Leia allows her love to flow through the Force and surround her son. The sheer recognition of it startles the unstable Kylo Ren. He falters, struggling to hold his composure and position. He let’s go of the trigger.

This moment between mother and son is so poignant to the story. It echoes back to where it all began with Anakin Skywalker. Compassion, he said, would be defined as unconditional love. And so, that moment between Leia and Kylo Ren is a glimpse of compassion. Her unyielding love for her son shines through because no matter what he has done, he is still her son. For Ben, the infamous Kylo Ren, it is a hint of his humanity. He spared a life, but not just any life, the life that gave him his.

In case you’re wondering, no, this does not make up for what he did to Han in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Not by a long shot. What it does show us is that he is capable of doing right by others. That Ben Solo still exists beneath the mask of the monster that is Kylo Ren. That this so-called monster might be more of an illusion, misguided by someone’s delusions. Misguided yes, but possibly misdiagnosed too.

Yes, I said misdiagnosed. Ok, hear me out. Stop and take a look at Kylo Ren. Closely. Look at his physical appearance first. He is clad all in black, from head to foot. Even his hands are gloved. Ever stop to think why? Now, think about his mannerisms and his disregard for one’s personal space. Is it a disregard or is it something else? Please, I implore you to look closer and while doing so, keep an open mind.

Is it farfetched to think that Ben Solo, Kylo Ren may have something else going on that could be the catalyst for his turning point? Something that even his parents may have missed or quite frankly, chose not to admit was there? Yes, denial is a big part of parenting too. Yes, love, on many levels is blind. So, on that note, it’s possible that Ben Solo may have some degree of Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD. In short, Sensory Processing Disorder is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses.

Take for instance the story of “Goldie Locks and the Three Bears.” It’s all about finding the “just right” in everyday situations. Now, with that in mind, look again at Kylo Ren. What do you see? Perhaps we can now fully understand Luke’s words when he shared his fleeting moment of weakness, “And the last thing I saw were the eyes of a frightened boy.” If this is a case of misdiagnosis, then that opens up the door to a lot of empathy for the young Ben Solo.

After all, the symptoms of SPD exist on a spectrum. For some, a loud car may force them under a table to take cover while others may vomit. They may scream or recoil when touched, while some may seem unresponsive to everything around them. Or, for example, my son, started off as a fussy baby and now more anxious in his teen years. He, like Ben Solo, doesn’t handle change well and will have an occasional meltdown. Thankfully, unlike Kylo Ren, lightsabers are not involved.

In retrospect, and dovetailing back to where I stated that Star Wars tests the limits of relatability, this, for me, would be the ultimate relatable factor a story could give me as a parent. So for now, I’m left wondering if there’s some truth to Anakin’s words, “love won’t save you.”

Until next time, see you around, kid.

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Contact Becca at beccab@coffeewithkenobi.com and on Twitter @urangelb.

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Coffee With Kenobi, its hosts, respective writers, or its affiliates.

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4 Comments

  1. Melinda Wolf
    July 21, 2018 at 16:14 Reply

    Becca, I hope you will forgive me for inquiring, but are you saying that Luke’s comment “… and the last thing I saw were the eyes of a frightened boy” was a misdiagnosis? What kind of misdiagnosis? I took that as a very direct comment from Luke. He realized what his actions did to Ben … and, ultimately, the galaxy. (Although, to be perfectly fair to Luke, Ben already was under the [misguided, just as his grandfather] influence of Snoke by this time. Luke was absolutely correct when he said he sensed a growing darkness in Ben.)

    You are absolutely right, Becca, in your assessment of parental care — when it comes to influencing, etc. one’s child’s life. There truly is only so much a parent can do. We even kid ourselves into believing that we have the utmost control over our little ones before they head off to kindergarten, but you know what? Even during those formative early years, there is only so much influence a parent has. (Anyone who has had to deal with a head-strong, obstinate child will tell you this. 😉 ) There is so much of a youngster’s makeup that is innate. Parents can sometimes curb their children’s personality traits and quirks. Most of the time they cannot.

    In the end, each of us is responsible for our actions.

    I will say this for Kylo Ren — I really thought that he had seen the Light when he and Rey teamed up in Snoke’s throne room. Together, they faced a daunting foe (not only Snoke, but the guard’s, as well), and proved what a formidable team they made. 🙂 And then we heard echoes of Anakin — together, Kylo Ren and Rey could rule the galaxy (just as Anakin thought he and Padme could), and make it be what they (really he) want it to be. He didn’t get his way, and he slid — all too easily — down that very slippery path … until his obsession to obliterate Luke was foremost on his mind. Just imagine what good he could do with that single-mindedness!

    It will be interesting to see where Kylo Ren’s path takes him in the next chapter. I thought there was a chance for him. Now, I’m not altogether sure…

    Wonderful read, Becca! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this great subject.

    MTFBWY 🙂

  2. Becca Benjamin
    July 22, 2018 at 11:56 Reply

    Hi, Melinda!

    Thanks for taking the time to read/respond 🙂

    And, no, I guess my point on Luke wasn’t as clear as I though it was. “All I saw were the eyes of a frightened little boy” was in reference (from my POV in this dissertation) to the possible SPD diagnosis. SPD is one of many diagnoses on the spectrum of Autism (my son is moderately sensory). That said, at the time Luke has his “fleeting moment” and is caught “red handed” by Ben, Ben isn’t a “little boy,” he’s a young man, but the SPD is reflected in his reaction to Luke (eyes of a little boy), meaning, his (Ben) mind cannot catch up or decipher his emotions so his fear quickly turns to anger. Again, just my opinion based off of what I’ve experienced with my son. All-n-all, I do not excuse Kylo Ren from his actions, but I do wonder if there’s more to him than what we see… there are things we cannot see, things that go misdiagnosed for years and when they fester or go untreated… sigh.

    Happy Birthday Month! MTFBWY!

    1. Melinda Wolf
      July 24, 2018 at 08:49 Reply

      Happy Birthday Month To You, Too, Becca!!! 😀

      That is a very interesting take on Ben/Kylo Ren. Granted, he is supposed to be a teenager at the point when Luke decides to take matters into his own hands in dealing with Ben’s growing Dark Side tendencies (or feelings, at least), so I can understand why Luke made the comment about “the eyes of a frightened little boy.” It would not be too difficult to believe that Ben, still not to that adult stage in life, would react the way he did.

      If you don’t mind…

      Isn’t it interesting how our own experiences and knowledge can affect our ways of thinking? (You definitely have opened my eyes to a different interpretation.) I most definitely do NOT mean this in a critical way. I simply mean that, like Obi-Wan told Luke in ROTJ, our truths are determined by our own points of view. In fact, it usually is Obi-Wan who I cite as an example when considering this way of thinking. Obi-Wan Kenobi always has been highly ranked on my list of favorite Star Wars characters. (Of course, he is not THE favorite of mine. 😉 We both know who that is. 🙂 ) He was the wise Jedi Master, cut down too soon … willing to sacrifice himself because he knew what that would unleash. It wasn’t until I was a parent for a few years that I really began to fully appreciate Obi-Wan and his true place (as I see it 😉 ) in the Star Wars Saga — including his interactions with and teaching of Anakin. As a teacher, a parent, one can do only so much (as you so astutely point out in your blog). In the end, it is your student or child who must decide for her/himself what course of action to take in any particular situation. Teachers/Parents give their charges the foundation on which to (hopefully) build a good, solid life. And then we send them off. Isn’t it interesting how a parent who has more than one child, parents each equally (at least that is what I always have striven to do), and see them react differently in the same situation(s)? Nature vs. nurture. I’ve always thought it was a combination of the two … but which, truly, is stronger?

      We both have one week to continue celebrating the month of our births! Celebrate to the fullest, Becca!

      MTFBWY 🙂

      1. Lisa Dullard
        July 24, 2018 at 09:28 Reply

        Just wanted to add there that Ben Solo is 24 years old when Luke makes that fateful decision. He went to train with Luke at a younger age, of course. But by the time of that incident, Ben is an adult. Tying in the novel Bloodline with The Force Awakens, the timeline of events is such that Luke has been in exile on Ahch-to for 6 years, and Kylo/Ben is 30 by the time we meet him TFA.

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