They Will Not Remember

1239003_10200492398261992_327382902_nMama, are you all wrong today? Did you make a mess of the morning?

Are you red-faced screaming at the bottom of the stairs? We’re late!  For godssake can’t we ever be on time anymore? Zipping coats angrily and tying up laces in fast frustration. I’m so tired. So. Tired. 

Is your patience gone, at the surface and unable to stretch. No, you didn’t even touch your sandwich.  No cake, no cake, I said and why is your face so dirty?

Are you hiding in the closet, standing with your back to the bathroom door, just needing peace and quiet so you can think. So you can have some space.

Are you sitting in your car after you dropped them at school? I shouldn’t have yelled so much.  I should have been more patient. Banging your head against the steering wheel.  Oh, why couldn’t I have been nicer today? 

Are you worried about what they will remember? Are you afraid that when they reopen the package of their childhood, that they will find only angry words, only the forgotten gym shoes, only the bad mornings?

Do not worry, mama. Just breathe. Have faith.

They will not remember.

Remember this: They will not remember.

Children don’t record the hours and unravel them backward. A child’s mind is not a computer, tracking your mistakes like changes in a spreadsheet.  They are not keeping score.

They do not.  They can not.

When time has passed, when this space is over, they will take up their childhood as one big piece and find the comfort in the best times. They will smooth it over into one big lump, little moments surrounded by great big feelings.  All the days, good mornings, good nights. Bumpy roads. The little moments of badness that seem so big right now, all your failings that make your stomach churn?  They will fade.

That is how it works.

They will not remember the little mistakes.  They will not remember the time you forgot their snack or dropped the ball.  They will not remember that one time you yelled “Stop! Stop, my head is pounding” when they played You’re a Grand Old Flag on their french horn for two hours straight.

They will not remember that you said “Only two books tonight, I have work to do”, even if you said it crossly.

If they remember, it will be that you read two books, even though you had work to do. This is how it works.

They will remember the way your face lit up when they walked from the school building to your waiting car, that you were the first one in the pick up line, in the snow.  They will remember the boot prints you made, side by side.  Little boots and big boots together, as you stomped up the driveway, catching snowflakes on your tongues, on your eyelashes.  Darling your cheeks are so pink, we should go in. One more minute mama. All right, one minute more, just one minute though. 

They will remember that you used your cupped hand to shield the water from their eyes in the bath.

They will remember the smell of your neck when you bent down, every night, or most nights, but always the best nights, to kiss them good night.

They will remember Wednesday night dance parties when With or Without You came on the radio. They will not know you were thinking of the boy you kissed on the dance floor, a long time ago, in a long blue prom dress.  Where is he now?  Does he ever think about me? They will only see your eyes go glossy and notice the way you twirl them around on the kitchen floor and they will think, oh my. Mama is so beautiful. And isn’t it wonderful to be dancing, and so alive? 

They will remember the awful jokes you told. Horse walks into the bar, the bartender says Why the long face? Even long after they can not muster a laugh at your jokes anymore, they will remember.

They will remember how you leaned in until your nose was almost touching the bathroom mirror to put your mascara on.  That you always opened your mouth just a little, for some reason, as you put the brush to your lashes.  That you were wearing only a half slip and a beige bra, that your breasts and hips and thighs sloped out into something strange and foreign and comforting about womanhood, about mothering. They will remember that you let them sit nearby and watch, if they were very quiet. Or that they were there, pretending not to watch, but to really just be close and to watch you and be remembering.

They will not remember that you burnt the pancakes.

They will remember that you made Pillsbury cinnamon rolls on Sunday mornings and that you licked the icing off the butter knife after you spread it, extra thick.

They will remember that when you yelled, you said “I’m sorry.” And “Mama is not perfect but she loves you so very much.”

That is what they will remember.

Maybe you don’t believe me.

But then. Ask yourself what you remember about when you were very young.

I thought so.

And then ask your children to tell you about last week, last year. Ask them to tell you about when they were two. When they were three and four and six and eight.

And they will.

Your children will not mention the little things you forgot. They will not remember the one time you lost your patience or that you swore or that you were late once. Or twice. Or more.

So, be kinder to yourself.  Look at yourself, the way your children look at you.

Remember what they will recall and have a little faith.

They will not remember the little failings, mama.

They will remember that you were there, mama.  That you loved.  That you tried. They will remember these things most of all.

This, I’m telling you, they will remember.

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12 Comments

  1. O God how I hate to burst your bubble, but my kids are all grown, and despite my being a great mom ( I feel) at least half of the time, (Id say three quarters but im hearing echoes of my kids voices) and never meaning to be horrible, (trust me, I was never THAT bad, tucked em in, lots of hugs and kisses, cooked homemade) its always the mistakes I made that they remind me of !! Im hoping after Im gone theyll appreciate the good stuff…….. arg.

    Reply
    • You’re right… but I’m 25,& I presented my adoptive parents for over half of my life and as I have gotten older I realize exactly why they were the way they were and I appreciate and understand fully. And if it wasn’t for how things were I wouldn’t be the woman I am today! Totally understand the struggle of being a parent and working and trying to take care of a household it’s a lot of hard work and can be very stressful. But one day will remember the good even if there was bad

      Reply
  2. Oh yes, they will remember!!! To this day my parents angry words echo in my mind. I am now a mother of a beautiful 10 month old girl and I vowed to never be like them. I never want my daughter to feel the way we did growing up, it was either the sting of the hurtful words or the sting of the angry hands and sometimes both. Choose your words and actions wisely because it DOES affect them!!

    Reply
    • I agree with you Michelle, truly. I think the message I was going for here is that every mom I know worries that the little things they do, the times they fail, the times they make a mistake, in the grand scheme of parenting, makes them a horrible mom. And the truth is, moms are people too. And they aren’t perfect. Let it go, do your best, try again. It’s not the end of the world to forget the snack or have to take a time out. And I do agree, there is a big dfference between the little mistakes and the big hurts—-those are much harder to undo. Thank you for reading, friend. Hugs to you and your beautiful girl. <3

      Reply
  3. I think this is a bit naive.

    While it is true, “They will remember that you were there, mama. That you loved. That you tried.” They will also remember the yelling, the moments that hurt their fragile sensibilities. I remember how I was loved… But also how my mother was a yeller. And impatient. And the moments when she said something so critical it bruised my ego forever.

    Mama, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that they’ll only remember the good stuff. They’re going to remember the bad stuff too. Promise you, they will. It’s going to matter how you handle the bad stuff that determines how it affects them.

    Apologize when you lose your cool. Then try harder not to next time.
    Be patient when she spills the milk you just told her not to walk around with… And help her clean it up… And trust that she realized, the second it hit the floor, that you were right and she should’ve listened… Instead of yelling at her about how you told her so.

    Basically – acknowledge your mistakes, to them – and try harder not to repeat them. My mom is a wonderful person and did the best she could as a young mother. But I most certainly remember those big, messy, hurtful moments of my childhood…. And how now I am the yeller she taught me to be… And my child has told me, if she could change one thing, it would be that I didn’t yell at her. So yeah…. She’s going to remember it. Just like I do.

    Reply
  4. Wonderfully written. Be the best mama you can be. Kiss those babies one more time. Choose to be a good mama. You don’t have to be a perfect mama. <3

    Reply
  5. The quote on my sons Preschool wall comes to mind here.

    Be aware of how you talk to your children. Your voice becomes the one in their heads.

    Reply

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