One of the most often phrases heard or read these days is, “We are making memories!” This is usually said by a mother doing something–memorable– with one or more of her children. She posts this on Facebook all of the time, “Look! We are making memories!”
Part of me wants to chide the parenthood warp that we find ourselves in right now where we truly believe that we control just about everything in our children’s lives, and therefore we also control that whole memory making circuitry as well. Another part of me wants to throw up my arms in frustration because yesterday our memory making consisted of playing at a playgroud, going to the library (and paying off three library cards that had excessive fines) and having a hot dog at Costco because, honestly, I just didn’t want to clean up the kitchen one more time. The the memory of Costco was of complaining children, two who were in the cart (one who had taken off his shoes because his feet hurt), one who had to go to the bathroom right now (#2), and one who reverted to screaming toddler phrase (oh, that was about 8 years ago by the way) because I wouldn’t let him get another sample because GOD ALMIGHTY I JUST NEEDED TO GET TO THE CHECK OUT WITH MY TWO ITEMS. (Also there is the ongoing expectation of my husband that I leave Costco with the same number of children that I entered with.)
We weren’t video taping. . .instagramming. . .twittering. . .cutting. . .pasting. . .decorating. . .or caroling any memories.
Either due to age. . .or lack of anything memorable, I can’t even remember the day before yesterday.
And, so here is my blessing to you dear readers on the eve of the holiday season I like to call Mommy Hell: don’t worry about making memories. Stop it right now. If your baby is under three years old, you have a PASS this holiday season. Use it. Memories don’t really start to form, according to scientists, until after the age of three. Just think: Three whole years where you can just enjoy the holidays and pose junior in front of a couple of toys you snagged for 50 cents at a garage sale. DONE!
And for those moms with children over three?
Well, memory is a very tricky thing. Even if you think you are creating memories. . .those are probably not the things your children will remember. Nope. Not at all. Take Marc for instance. Last Thursday he argued that Scott and I didn’t love him because during his third grade year we NEVER sat down next to him and helped him with his homework and for that reason he now as a fourth grader has a very shoddy grasp on multiplication. (We both agreed on the shoddy grasp of multiplication even as I had to peel myself from the ceiling after hearing his memory of me occupied with. . .well, I don’t know. . .I think he mentioned helping everyone else but him.) Yep, his memory of me is of a mom who blatantly ignores her child who is obviously lost in multiplication purgatory while helping everyone else. (I now have a better idea of why memorizing multiplication might actually be difficult for this child.)
I was listening to a Ted Radio Talk about Memory a few weeks ago and it was so. . .well, freeing as a mom surrounded by so many other moms who seem intent on making memories. Daniel Kahneman, a behavioral economist and winner of the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize, was one of the speakers on the show and he was asked what happens to most of the memories that we have, the nearly 600 million moments in our lives.
“And the answer is really straightforward: they are lost forever. I mean, most of the moments of our life and I calculated, you know, the psychological present is said to be about three seconds long. That means that in a life there are about 600 million of them, in a month there about 600,000. Most of them don’t leave a trace. Most of them are completely ignored by the remembering self. And yet, somehow you get the sense that they should count, that what happens during these moments of experience is our life. It’s the finite resource that we’re spending while we’re on this Earth. And how to spend it would seem to be relevant. But that is not the story that the remembering self keeps for us.”
He is further asked by the interviewer, Guy Raz, how we know what are true memories and what are reconstructed memories–or in other words what is real and not real. Kahneman answers, “I don’t think you can tell. I mean all of it, you know, is probably to some extent reconstruction, except some reconstructions are better than others. But you are not going to know necessarily whether what you’re reconstructing is the reality or is something else.”
Oh my goodness. Do you know what this is? It is a hall pass from your worst geometry class (which actually might not have been your worst class in high school but your reconstructed memory says that it was).
And, that my sweet friends is why this holiday season, I’m not worried about creating memories. Nope, cross that guilt gift off my list! I’m into constructing photographs in which my children will look back and reconstruct a memory that looks like it was a very blissful (and dare I say, generous) holiday season. Here sweetie, hold that empty lego box for me while I snatch a quick pic!
And this leads me to one of my most favorite memories that I know my grandmother made sure I’d keep forever and ever: shucking peas on her front porch ( her house faced old Route 40 and a Catholic Church and gymnasium). We were shucking peas and watching a wedding party go from the church to the gymnasium for the reception. It is such a sweet and simple memory and one that honestly, I’m now not too sure even happened.
But, like our children, it is the story I tell myself and. . .it makes me happy.
Phew. . .one less thing to worry about this holiday. We will make and and decorate cookies because they are so good and the decorating is so over the top with sprinkles. . .decorate a tree. . .wrap gifts. . .try to get out and see some of the lights. But in terms of making memories. . .that just isn’t on my to-do list. I figure if it happens great. . .if not it is in good company with the 599 million other moments that we seem to forget.