To all you mothers of youngsters out there — you brave women in the trenches — a word from a veteran: You won’t remember a darn thing.
You might recall a few snippets from your child-rearing years, but what you remember and what your children remember will be entirely different. Because memory is a fickle thing … so fickle, in fact, that Barbara Streisand sang a song essentially glorifying its fickleness way back in the ’70s. A tattered old cat had a long run on Broadway singing about it, too.
Alas, the curious tenet of memory is that you will remember a thing one way, and others will remember it another. This paradigm applies most aptly to child-rearing.
Years from now you will be scrolling through photos, quietly reminiscing with yourself and remembering what a great mom you were, pausing every now and then to form a congratulatory grin at how wonderfully attentive, creative and energetic your younger self was, that she was constantly doling out pearls of wisdom whilst kissing boo-boos and whipping up healthy dinners.
Your kids, however, will remember you at your worst. Like a nosy hiker peering under wayside rocks to discover the nesting maggots there, your kids will pry beneath the glossy memories and reveal the unflattering bits nestled beneath.
For instance, you knock yourself out for 20 years, staging multiple birthday parties at recurring intervals, careful to evenly balance the themes and expenses among your offspring and to choose parties which are relevant to the interests of each child and yet pertinent to the time of year and the social milieu of the day, and all they will remember is that Barney didn’t come to their fourth birthday party. You, naturally, will have forgotten that.
Lately, when my kids catch me reveling in what I remember, they will quash me with what I forgot.
I will remember singing them a lullaby every night; I will have forgotten that it was “Tears of a Clown.”
And thus evolves in our house a distinct, “What I remember/What I forgot” pattern.
What I remember: We played inside games.
What I forgot: Our favorite one was “Name that Smell.”
What I remember: I always fed them healthy food.
What I forgot: Except when I wanted a few minutes to myself — that’s when I’d hand them a carton of ice cream and a spoon.
What I remember: I watched my language.
What I forgot: They caught me using an expletive while driving them to preschool, and I told them that I only cuss when I’m turning left.
What I remember: We played “Hide and Seek.”
What I forgot: My regular hiding place was under a blanket on the couch. When it was my turn to “seek,” I stayed there … and took a very, very long time to find them.
What I remember: Spending quality time with each of my children.
What I forgot: It was typically in the waiting room of the ER.
The moral here is that you can’t win. You will flip through the photo albums, happily recalling your fall family outing to the pumpkin patch when your little darlings were all dressed up in gingham and overalls and played gleefully amongst chrysanthemums and orange gourds, and they will remember that you didn’t let them have a funnel cake.
Cheer up, moms, and happy Mother’s Day. You’re doing a great job … no matter how your kids will remember it.