You Can't Choose Your Children's Memories

Updated: Aug 30, 2019

An excerpt from One Mom to Another: Be Kind to Yourself, Embrace the Good, Find Joy in the Everyday.

A few years ago, my daughter Stephanie and her children came home for their annual summer visit. Her daughter, Avery, was a toddler at the time and she was sitting

on my lap while I was singing her some songs. My usual repertoire includes, but is not limited to: “Ahhh-Goonk Went the Little Green Frog” (complete with facial expressions); “Round About Goes the Mouse;” “There Was an Old Sow” (also with facial expressions and various noises); “Popcorn Popping;” “Horsey, Horsey;” and “Kook- aburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree.” You get the picture.

After I had sung a few songs, Avery climbed off my lap and went to play. I looked at Stephanie and asked her, “Do you remember me singing those songs to you?” She replied, “No, did you?” I think she must have noticed my chin dropping and my eyes filling up with tears because she quickly added, “I remember you singing them to the younger kids.” That didn’t help. She quickly followed with, “If you say you sang them to me, I will believe you.” With panic-laced incredulity, I turned and said, “Stephanie. Before bed each night you all got to choose a book and a song! We would sing during the day. We had a ‘Pick Up Your Toys’ song and a ‘Rules Are Good’ song. I made up a song when you all were grouchy or sad.” I had to sit down. “Don’t you remember any of that?” “No,” she said.

Where did I go wrong? I had carefully planned it all out. I knew in the depths of my soul that they would remember and tell others about their wonderful mom who sang songs to them throughout the day. I knew it would be their favorite childhood memory; it would be what they would talk about at my funeral. During the funeral, they would sing the songs their mother sang to them as a tribute to her life of selflessness and sacrifice. Any mistakes I had made along the way would be forgotten, burned away by the shining memory of a mother who sang to them. I explained all of this to Stephanie. She, being a sweet and kind person, looked at me and said, “Um, I would be happy to mention it at your funeral if you would like.” This would not do. Curiosity got the better of me and I asked her, “What is your favorite childhood memory of me?” Her answer gave me my second shock of the day. She said it was the day we had a blizzard come through and it was really cold and snowy. It was on a Monday; it was supposed to be the first day back to school after Christmas break, but because of the weather, school had been cancelled. She remembered playing in the snow and sledding down our backyard hill with me and her brothers and sisters. Of all of her childhood memories with me, that was her favorite.

After the room quit spinning and I gained some composure, I explained the following: I did not like that day AT ALL. (Yes, “at all” needs to be in caps.) It wasn’t the kids, it was me. We had just finished a two-week Christmas break, which included bad storms that kept the children in the house for the better part of the two weeks. The blizzard that hit the day the children were supposed to go back to school was worse. It dumped 12 inches of icy snow and “the people” who are in charge called a snow day! Which, in fact, turned into a snow week, giving the kids (lest you missed this), a three-week Christmas break.

All that morning, the kids fought with each other. When I told them to “go play,” they would look at me and say those dreaded words, “I’m bored.” My response was to send them outside. The grumbling and mumbling would begin as I helped the children on with their snowsuits, scarves, hats, gloves, and boots. “Have fun!” I called out as I closed the door to complaints. Literally. They were complaining and, mid-sentence, I closed the door. They yelled through the door, “No one else’s mother is making her kids play outside!” “Well, no one else’s mother is as nice as I am,” I replied. But since I was inside and not yelling, they didn’t hear me. Probably for the best.

It wasn’t like I was sending them out with nothing to do. We lived in the Midwest, where there are no fences between yards. Starting at the top of our neighbors’ yard was a large hill that extended down to our back porch, making it a perfect sledding hill, creating hours of play.