The little one is two, propped up on the bathroom sink. Her tiny foot is rested in my hand. I run a bit of “itchy bye-bye” cream onto her ankle. I watch her little fingers open the box of “bambaids” shuffling through her options. She sings and hums and babble practices today’s new word. I love her chubby cheeks, and the way she looks at me from behind her long eyelashes.
But this isn’t her memory. It’s mine.
If I’m lucky, I will always remember these little moments, these pockets in time. I can’t help but wonder what they will remember about me. How will they describe their childhood when they look back? I don’t know what our lives will look like in 20 years. But I often think about how they will describe their childhood. Sometimes I try to see myself and our lives through their memories. Will they remember that I was there to kiss their boo-boos? That I bathed and tucked them in every night? That I painstakingly painted and glittered itty bitty fingernails and dried them with the hair dryer? I know how I want them to describe it. And it doesn’t include the sleepless nights with a crying colicky baby on my chest. It doesn’t include the anniversary weekend thwarted with a sick third wheel. The many times I moved meetings, negotiated schedules and sick time with my husband to cover her creeping fever. The mornings I sat at my desk in the dark after daycare drop off and wondered “what the hell am I doing here, instead of being with her?” Nope.
Those memories are reserved for me.
Those memories are my own little sacrifice locked up in dusty file drawer of my mind. They aren’t for her. Hers should be the afternoons she fell asleep being pushed on the swing while I sang her an endless loop of “If Elmo Had a Dinosaur”. The hours and gallons of paint and packs of paper she whittled away at splashing through her next masterpiece. The nights where she begged me for another story and to lay down beside her so she could settle in for the night. That’s the deal. The prearrangement. She gets the yummy snuggle up and enjoy the oxytocin rush moments. The “my Mom slept at the zoo with me” memories. Let her pick any one of the hundreds of sweaty head naps that were taken on my shoulder. That’s what I want her to remember about me. The deal. I will take the “I’m so tired I have to just sit here and cry” memories. The “SHIT- I can’t believe she just vomited down my shirt (again)” memories. Deal? She has to let go of the Mommy is yelling at me “for the love of Pete, finish your math homework” and the “seriously kiddo your room looks like we were robbed” daily harassment. She has to forget the days that I popped in movie after movie so I could nurse her sister and steal some sleep. That’s the deal. I will keep the rotten mommy moments, but she has to throw them away.
Crazy, I know, but I can hope.
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