Memory Lane

Toddler Taming

I’m amazed at how quickly children forget things – things we used to do every day.

The other day Hannah asked me what my full name was. I told her.
And then I thought of something.

“Don’t you remember the song I used to sing you, with all of our names in it?
You used to ask me every day – sing all of us Mummy.”

A blank stare.
A shrug.

“No.”

“Don’t you remember it at all?”

“No-o,” she repeated, this time with Attitude.

So I sang it again, at the tea table.
Ben grinned, open-mouthed and slightly incredulous.
Mike looked a little uncomfortable.

“Oh,” said Hannah, “I don’t think I remember it.”

“But you asked for it. Every day. And you both loved it.” I am amazed and a little sad.

“I remember it Mummy,” Ben tries out the rarely attempted role of peace-maker.

“And I used to sing Daisy Daisy, in the car when Hannah was a baby to stop her from crying.”

“Yeah, her ears probably hurt too much for her to cry,” quips Ben.

It’s pushing the limits of cognitive ability to expect a baby and a two-year old to remember a song that was last popular in the music hall youth of their great grandmother.
But there’s another one they’ve forgotten. A more recent little moment that was repeated ad nauseam.

“What about all the times, every single tea-time, when Ben asked for ketchup and Hannah would say, I don’t like sauce, do I Mummy?
Every day, without fail.”

More blank stares.

Sometimes I wonder why we didn’t just sit in the kitchen for the first four years of their lives.
It would have been a lot easier. They don’t seem to remember any of the fantastic, fun, exciting, mundane, everyday stuff that made up their little lives back then.

Was there any point taking them to castles, National Trust gardens, beaches, museums, parks, moors, rivers, relatives’ houses, holidays, gymtots, swimming pools, NCT come-round-and-moan-about-their-sleeping-habits-while-spilling-coffee mornings?
(Well in the last case, it was more for me than for them, but they did get to sit next to other babies, stare thoughtfully into space and try to poke each other’s eyes.)

Would they be different people now if they hadn’t been to Cornwall, Wales, London, Brighton, Lincolnshire, Kent, Gloucestershire, Surrey, three of the five Channel Islands, Spain, France, Lapland…

Not all these trips were in one year, and many were thanks to relatives or the NCT House Swap Register.

But there was a time, probably every summer up to the ages of 4 and 6, when I wondered why we made all that effort to get the four of us into a car and away to another place that didn’t have all the comforts of home, just to try to re-live those glorious pre-child holidays we remembered and still thought we could enjoy.

And now, it seems I was right to question the effort involved. They don’t even remember most of it.

There is one little leitmotif they do both remember, although I think it may be due to repeated post-event story telling by me rather than their own memories.

When Hannah was 2 and Ben was 4, he went through a stage of continually saying,

“Mummy?”

“Yes,” I replied dutifully. Every time.

“Nothing,” he would chortle.

Hannah would try her best to copy this hilarious exchange, and we’d end up with a grinning toddler giggling and yelling,

“Mummy nuffin! Mummy nuffin!”

To me it feels like just last week, but it was more than half a lifetime ago for them.

No wonder they don’t remember.
Their minds are too cluttered with today’s obsessions: nintendos and ballet and football and Cubs and friends and school and sleepovers and Easter eggs and puppies and presents…

About Beta Mum

Here you can find the ramblings of a trapeze artist turned journalist who ran away from the circus to join the BBC. Cathy "mine's a Kir Royale" Keir then spent thirteen years working in Jersey, Guernsey and Devon, before downgrading to what you see before you. She has contributed articles to The Guardian, The Stage and Television Today, Junior Magazine and both the BBC and Bad Mothers Club websites. She has two children who think women can’t be prime ministers. She blames herself.
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5 Responses to Memory Lane

  1. Omega Mum says:

    I remember absolutely nothing about my childhood at all. Thank God I kept diary (which I have no recollection of writing) otherwise the whole thing would be a blank. I think it just shows that your children had a good time and have no need to remember things – after all, you tend to remember the really awful bits, don’t you? so you must have done a good job.

  2. Potty Mummy says:

    Just like, OM, I kept a diary. But mine was full of ‘washed my hair’ rather than trips to Lapland. Maybe we DID stay in the kitchen for most of it…

  3. mid-lifer says:

    Like omega mum – I remember very little about my childhood – except some awful woman my mum palmed us off one once. My mum despairs of all the things she did of which I only ever remember terrible mistakes SHE made!

    My daughter found a diary kept by the nursery she went to for a little bit. It’s hilarious and will give her memories she would have lost.

  4. Expatmum says:

    My mother always used to tell me not to worry about giving my young kids lots of “experiences” as they probably wouldn’t remember most of them. Probably right, although I can remember living in Wales when I wasn’t quite three.
    Rilly Super has a current post mentioning the song “Two Little Boys” which I used to sing to my older two every night. I tried it out the other day and they couldn’t even help me finish the first sentence. Mind you, they are now 12 and 15 so they were probably just dying of embarrassment!

  5. Beta Mum says:

    OM – You’re right about remembering awful bits. I’m hoping they don’t remember just the Nintendo-bans, forgetting the days out en famille.

    PM – I kept a diary of the “got up, went to school, lunch horrid” variety. But I was older by then. For my earlier years I have nothing but my memory and photos, invariably without the top of my head.

    ML – I’ve kept all their nursery notebooks, which they’ll probably chuck out unread when they have to sort through our accumulated junk.

    Ex – yes I read the Two Little Boys post. I used to love that song! We have it on one of those retro CDs but the kids preferred “I’ve lost my Mummy”

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