What we remember is not always true. And what truth actually is might not always be what we wish to remember.
When my children were little and I was younger, life itself was overwhelming. Downtime didn’t exist. Grocery shopping was something I squeezed in after everyone else was tucked in for the night. Girls Night Out was a salvation, a cherished few hours, a small and remote island. Breakfasts, lunches, walks, classes, play dates, homework, baseball practice, dance lessons, snacks, changes of clothes, muddy cleats, bickering, fighting, sleepovers, first friends, cousin outings, day trips, birthday parties, Halloween costumes, Santa Claus, birth control, pregnancy scares, juggling. This was life. And I remember all of this with joy, with sentiment, with longing.
In truth, there was more. Anxiety drives me and drove me then in ways I’m embarrassed to remember. And so I choose not to remember, until one or more of my children reminds me.
Swearing is commonplace in our home. When I visited Denmark decades ago, I remember staying with Mrs. Fardrup in what was an early version of AirBNB, where residents rented out their rooms for a night or two. Mrs. Fardrup was an older woman (maybe 10 years older than I am now), very sweet, very kind, very accommodating. But every other word out of her mouth was the F word, used as sort of a flavoring particular in every sentence. Speaking with her was surreal. In our house, the F word also seems to have taken on the function of the flavoring particle. And it drives me crazy.
Recently, I said something to my oldest, something like, “Please stop that!”
And his reply was, “stop what?”
“Swearing! It’s driving me crazy.”
And his response has haunted me for the past week, “Do you know how much you cursed when we were little? All of a sudden, for no apparent reason, you’d go off. And we had no idea why.” And then I remembered clearly those days when life overwhelmed, when there was no down time, when my house was one big sticky juice box. I remembered the island of Moms Night Out, the rare occurrence when we would hire a sitter so that Steve and I could be adults if only for an hour or two. I remember my anxiety, my tears and the cursing that would flow out of my mouth. As hard as I’ve tried to remember what I want, my children will always remember things differently, more personally, more fully than I could myself. Just like I remember my parents.
No one knows us more or less than our children. No one sees us so clearly through such a cloudy glass.