Do you ever imagine how, years from now, thinking back, you’ll envision the very moment in which you’re currently living? This minute. Right now. How will it appear to a reminiscing you? What images will you remember? What words? Do you think, somewhere down the line, you’ll pop into a bookstore and see one of my novels on the bestseller lists? You’ll recognize the name. You’ll recollect some odd bit of trivia, remembering a silly little parenting blog you occasionally read on the internet years earlier. What will you remember?
Society today frowns on memory. Our culture moves forward too quickly, our lives too busy. News is presented in tiny bites, tasteless morsels that never satisfy. We don’t learn enough about any one topic to remember it for more than a few weeks, or a few days, as if we’re eternally cramming for the exam of life, possessing knowledge only long enough to survive, then forgetting it. Without a conscious effort to learn, we, like time itself, simply trudge forward, never pausing to appreciate or to understand. Why else are those Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit questions so difficult?
As parents, however, we cannot allow this chronological indifference to pulverize our senses, to populate our memories with photographs or videos. No, we must make that concentrated effort to remember. We must pause from time to time and savor a moment. Imagine: The silky, flawless feel of infant skin. The rubbery aroma of a pacifier. The innocent, eager, proud tones of a child’s first words. The tickling sensation of a favorite stuffed animal’s fur. The site of a toothless smile. The joy of a reciprocated hug. The pleasure of siblings playing together. The quiet of naptime. The guilt of stepping on baby’s foot. The smell of regurgitated formula. The pain of baby’s injuries. The cackle of early laughter. The panic induced by a baby’s cry. The intimacy of a bedtime story. Holding hands. Dancing. Laughing. Singing. Crying. The moments never end, the memories infinite.
Awhile back I wrote a post on the ceaseless accumulation of sentimental junk that goes hand in hand with parenthood. There’s a reason we hold on to all that stuff. It prods our senses, nudges our memory, reminds us of times that, when we endured them, seemed to last forever, but now, since they’re gone, seem to have passed far too quickly. It’s important to remember, while we can’t keep everything, even the most simple, everyday object will eventually possess greater value. Not monetary value (though I still have dreams of selling my kids collectible toys to pay for my retirement), but sentimental value. I promise you someday, when you’re rummaging through a box in the attic and stumble upon an old bottle and nipple, you’ll smell that warm milk, your baby’s breath. You’ll remember those 3am feedings with a fondness that can only come after years of uninterrupted sleep.
So stop occasionally and let the world creep into your senses, into your memory. Smells and sounds and sites, and, if you occasionally nibble on your baby’s toes, tastes. Collect all the memories you can, because sooner than you think, they’ll be all you have of the tumultuous times in which you currently reside. And there will never be enough to satisfy.
This was originally posted June 29, 2005 on my at-home-dad blog, The Daily Writer. I’m posting here for multiple-reasons. To create a single repository for my writing. To reflect, a decade later, on those early parenting days. And because so many of my friends, who were childless party-goers when these blog posts were written, now have kids of their own, making these words more relevant. To all those raising small children, you’re not alone. Many of your struggles and joys are common experiences shared by many, but the specifics belong solely to you and your child. No one can take them from you. Thankfully, the memories are more wonderful (and less stressful) in retrospect.
Also, I found this nice “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” drawing by Edu0211 on Deviant Art.