I am at that weepy, nostalgic point of motherhood where I get sucked into the vortex of backwards-looking. I won’t even name all the cliches, but it’s sufficient to say that life today is not what it was 10 or 15 years ago, for better or worse, and I have lots of feelings about that.
I hate being a cliche. I despise bandwagons and group-think and stereotypes, but here I am—weepy and nostalgic.
The only real security is not owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gifts from the Sea
“As it is now” is great, truly. This may be my favorite stage of parenting so far, but it is exhausting in a whole new way and what I really miss the most about the younger years may be the control I had.
Honestly. Dictatorship was so much easier.
I was thinking the other day about some of the stories my kids retell from their early years, stories that ring absolutely no bells for me. Do I just truly not remember, or is it their memory that’s skewed? We all take on memories as they are told to us and we assimilate them into our memory keeping system. It’s true because we’ve heard it enough times. Their version of those days is the truest form of the events in their minds, which makes me realize how formative those early years really are and how powerful an opportunity we all have to shape the memory of a child.
My kids are telling me stories I don’t fully buy into though and I wonder if this is the trend now, if I’m the one who’ll be told memories from here on out. I mean, I’m not that old, but possibly my memory is full of the mistold and misunderstood. The way I remember things may be filtered through nagging guilt or sleep-deprived synapses that fail to connect.
I should have told my kids a lot more stories when they were younger. I should have told them more beautiful and true events of their everyday lives, or at least kept up the baby books better. I need to collect the snippets I’ve written over the years on scraps of paper and in old journals, and press them into some type of cohesive, hopeful story, of first words and mispronunciations, hilarious antics, deep questions, scraped knees, and those growth charts marked on the walls of three homes.
Those were the years I could have painted the rosiest pictures and they would have believed the tales, forever.
My own childhood memories take on a new ring when I realize this fallibility of memory, or this trick of perspective. It’s important to note. The eyes of a child see through two wide-open portals and the eyes of an adult feel like a thousand tiny pin-pricks—there is so much more to consider.
The good thing is that my kids are keeping memories. The girls have a book where they write down funny things that are said or done amongst the siblings, and I am proud to see the genius in their method: they write it all down in one journal. All in one place. They are smarter than me.
Reflection is how we learn and the way we process, and memory, however flawed it turns out to be, is a great sustainer. We can live too much on memories though, and of the many times I’ve looked back and wished for something different, prayed for forgetfulness for my shortcomings, or longed for bygones, no memories have ever served me as well as the reminder that God is making the present brand new. This is a story I need to retell myself daily.
Every moment, new and new and new.
Taking present relationships as they are requires a good amount of healthy forgetfulness. It requires a trust that somewhere in the mess of our lives we laid a good foundation, and the security of our collective memory is bound up in the keeper of all our thoughts and experiences.
Today, I’m praying we can all do the work of story telling: here’s what’s good, here’s the truth, here’s the pain and also the gospel about your present turmoil or indecision or brokenness.