parent opinion

"We forget most of it." The worst thing about motherhood is also the most painful to admit.

"I love you, too."

My three-year-old will say this at random times. I never get tired of hearing those words, even though the nerd part of me feels weird replying with, "I love you, too." Usually, I’ll go with, "I love you more." It’s undoubtedly true, but it’s also out of guilt because it sounds like he’s responding to me saying it first – when I didn’t.

Once, he said it while snuggled next to me on the couch, half-asleep. I was rubbing his back, admiring his little hands as he held onto my arm. His hair was sticking up, most endearingly. So cute, it almost hurts. He was happy with me, and I wanted to soak in everything about him. It’s one of those moments a mum never wants to forget.

And that’s when it hit me. We do forget, almost all of it.

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That night will be forgotten, just like every other night with every other kid.

The cute mispronounced words. The generous "gifts." The sweet smiles. The hilarious conversations. The fun outings. Even the times they get hurt. The moments we swear we’ll never forget because they are so intense.

We assume those unique things said and done will be filed into the "important" section of our minds. How could they not be? It hurts when reality hits. I’m not sure what’s harder to stomach: the guilt, shock, or sadness.

Guilt over forgetting such monumental things, memories I should be able to share with future grandkids.

The shock from realising how horrible the mind can be. I can’t trust it to keep important information safe. I mean, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. I forget a lot of essential things. But I’m a mother. Mums don’t forget details about their kids, right? How is that even possible?

Extreme sadness over such loss. It’s like losing irreplaceable pictures in a fire. Those memories can never be retrieved or re-lived.

It could be overwhelming. No one wants to think about it. What can make it tolerable?

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Mums need to remember that those times, even if forgotten, are what mould us, our children, and our relationship with them. 

It carries over into their teen and adult years, something constant in an ever-changing connection.

The details are forgotten but never lost. Like lines in a beautiful painting, we might not be close enough to see individual brushstrokes, but we can see the effect of each one. 

We look at our painting and feel the emotions of each expertly blended memory.

Kids don’t remember, but they know. They are permanently changed because of that love and tenderness, and it forms an unbreakable bond.

To new mums: I would tell you to write everything down, but it’s impossible. Try, but don’t feel guilty when you can’t.

To mums with older kids: We can’t focus on what’s lost. We can smile, knowing there were times with our children that left everlasting imprints on our lives.

This post was originally published on Medium and republished with full permission. You can find more of Adrienne's work on Medium or find her on  Facebook.

The feature image used is a stock image from Getty.

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