What is your earliest memory?
I know mine.
It was in the house we lived in until the summer I turned three, so I must have been an older two year old. I stood with my parents in our orange-carpeted (!) living room as they introduced me to a new babysitter, before they headed out for the evening.
I remember feeling bashful around this stranger, and I remember my strong preference for my mother. I stood at her side, my face smashed firmly into the side of her leg. She felt warm and safe, and I can still smell her perfume.
Fast forward a few years, and I find that most of my growing-up memories were happy ones. Things weren’t perfect, and my parents would be the first to say that. But my family was a happy and peaceful one, with lots of laughter and deep conversations. My mother will occasionally remind me of a time in which she thinks she should’ve been more patient, or less stressed, or more involved, or less involved, etc. etc. I rarely remember it. The good memories seem to have mostly erased the bad ones, if they ever even existed in the first place.
I think about that sometimes, where I stand now, in the trenches of motherhood. Decisions and issues and crummy attitudes and permission slips and book reports fly at me at a dizzying speed. And in the day-to-day settling of all these affairs, I wonder, did I discipline her firmly enough on that one? Does he understand those consquences? Does he get it that I’m still on his team? Was I unkind? Was I accessible? Did I listen?
What is it, I wonder, that they’ll take from this moment, right now, this very day? Standing right here, right now, spinning all these plates, am I being the mother that I hope they remember?
The question plagues me, sometimes.
Because this parenting gig is hard. Very, very hard. Many nights I fall into bed with a list of things I mean to show them or meant to explain or meant to apologize for, and my heart is heavy. I wonder if the frazzled, impatient mom is the one they’ll recall the most easily.
But then some evenings we collapse in a snorting fit of laughter at the dinner table, and I think yes, God, let this be the one they remember from today.
It’s not that I’m out to win a popularity contest in their minds. Who my children become is of utmost important, and I’m fully prepared to be the Bad Guy occasionally, as it will surely be a necessary part of their journey. But I want to be mindful, as we wade through the necessities of everyday-ness, that I’m not just getting them from point A to point B. I’m building a framework of memories, things they’ll turn over and ponder and re-hash when they’re grown. When Frazzled Mom appears–as she surely will–let me be sure that I’m balancing her out with memories of good jokes and good books and gentle pats and deep talks and easy laughter.
Let me never forget the destination. It isn’t soccer practice or a cleaned plate or a folded basket of underwear. Those are tiny little stops along the way, and they’re stops that often create a sense of urgency, blinding me from the big picture.
They’ll never remember the folded underwear. But if I listen? And laugh? And encourage? And smile? And understand?
They’ll remember that. And so will I.