How many of you, when you stub your toe and let out a scandalously satisfying swear word in front of your kid, think to yourselves, "Eh! He won't remember that anyway!" Don't lie - I KNOW it's not just me.
I use this thought to reassure myself aaaall the time. Swear words? Nasty gestures at bad drivers? The time The Rage took over your senses and you yelled your head off about your kids' apparent inability to clean up the Legos? Those little moments when your language, your behavior, your manners all take a dive into Undesirable In A Mother - that's when it's great to take a breath and say to yourself, "Self? It's okay. They won't remember this anyway."
I think my biggest sense of they-won't-remember-this relief happened after a particularly ginormous fight with my husband. Which we conducted in front of our small, sweet, impressionable children. I even wrote about it here, I think. I felt SO guilty about it and while it helped when some of you left comments saying, "No, it's good to for kids to see their parents argue and make up" (emphasis mine!) the biggest help was knowing THANK GOODNESS they were too little to remember the time their parents waged war in their presence.
Except, well, hmm. Jack is four. Four and a half. And if I think back reeeeeeally hard? MY first memories come from being about four and a half.
I can remember kids in my preschool - their names, what they looked like, who I liked best. I was closer to five when my baby sister was born, but I have super clear memories of my mom letting me climb into the hospital bed and letting me hold the new baby. I remember getting in trouble for fighting with my brother. I remember my CLOTHES. There was a particularly awful pair of knee socks that my mother made me wear with a particularly awful brown scratchy jumper.
(As an adult I happened to be complaining about this outfit - in front of my aunt, who, it turns out, MADE IT FOR ME. headsmack!)
So now I am in a small state of panic. My freebies are all gone. My get out of jail free card is no longer. MY TIME HAS RUN OUT. I now have a kid who is going to remember each and every thing I do to screw him up, from this point until the day I die. HOLD ME.
Jack's not just this smooshy baby boy anymore - he's a PERSON! I feel like being a parent is going through this perpetual realization of "WAIT. He's FOR REAL." You know? Like he's not some little toy baby? Oh wow, that sounds horrible doesn't it? But you know what I mean! RIGHT?!
Now there's this whole new way to see through Jack's eyes. It's not just Life At Home anymore, it's Life All Over and now I'm not only wondering what he thinks about things NOW, I'm wondering what he's going to think about them in the future. Jack doesn't remember our first house or the rental house (well, he says he does, but the boy hates to admit he does not know something) but he's going to have definite and concrete memories of THIS house. Even that seemingly neutral example makes me wonder. Will he remember sharing a room with his sister? What will he think about that?! Will he remember it fondly? I AM SO CURIOUS!
I am curious and also determined to be a better mom. Is it wrong to be inspired to be a better mom based on the idea that now someone will have an opinion about your parenting? Up to this point no one was keeping track! That's just a tiny bit intimidating!
And haven't you talked about YOUR childhood memories with YOUR parents? I am sometimes shocked - no really, parents of mine. SHOCKED! - at the things my parents either don't remember or remember INCORRECTLY. Because, obviously, those memories I have of being a four-year-old are the right ones.
Wait- that's my new excuse. "At least he won't remember this ACCURATELY!"