Memory is subconsciously selective. We cannot decide what to remember, however hard we try. For example, my dearest mother in law, despite being a sprightly and very busy young Nana, seems to have wiped the entire early years of bringing up both her children. It’s totally gone. There’s the odd recollection of pinning my husband, then 4 years old, onto the floor while trying to wrestle a balaclava onto him, in contrast, there was the time that her elder son ‘made up his own language’ at some obscenely early age, but her set response is usually a blank look and ‘I really can’t remember…’
This prompts the possibility that I won’t remember all this either. Worryingly, the evidence is already mounting. A few weeks ago we went on a Yorkshire holiday with another couple and their 15 month old daughter. I foresaw idyllic and leisurely strolls round the dales, lashings of cream teas and long breakfasts. The reality was that we achieved all these things, but in tiny windows of time. We spent most of the holiday rushing out after the baby’s sleep or rushing back for her sleep, or her parents were recovering from lack of sleep. And then it all came back to me; I’d forgotten that when you have little children the ‘sleep’ factor is GOD. The whole 24 hours of life revolves around the snoozes and snuffles of the smallest person in the family. Or to be more accurate, one little child. By the time number two comes along, reality hits, like a sledgehammer. There’s no point chasing the sleep because it’s not there, and won’t be for a while, so you just adjust to the semi-zombie like state and get on with it, which presumably doesn’t help with remembering anything.
And what about now? How can I possibly ever forget the little people that I look after and love day in day out. Will I forget my daughter endlessly playing schools, lining up her soft toy pupils and, after adopting her carefully studied teacher pose (legs crossed, leaning slightly forwards), taking the register? Will I forget my son explaining the minute details of his latest lego creation, with booster flaps, detachable wings and hidden weapons cache? The answer is, of course, ‘Yes, most of it’.
Luckily, I have a secret weapon in my armoury against memory wipeout, which is my stash of diaries, which I have kept since my son was around 6 months old. I don’t write obsessively, but around once a week I just try and record the moment, or the everyday bits of interest. Flicking back through that first one I find this scribbled description of my son at ten months old:
Little figure of a man, singing your noises, curiosity pulsing through every inch, barrel tummy, disproportionate head holding your fizzing, wiring brain.
Which, I flatter myself, is almost poetic. And then there’s the poetry/psychotic ramblings they come out with:
The other day he told me that his bedroom was ‘where my dreams come out’. He calls his little sister ‘Eggy’ and when asked why, said because you can ‘crack her with a knife’.
Luckily there is no further incident recorded in the diary involving my son testing out this ‘cracking with a knife’ theory.
The final question is why on earth would I want to remember it ALL. And the answer is, boundless, endless love. I love them in all their incarnations of being, all their stages and phases, happy bits, ill bits, and sad bits. It’s all good.