I Recommend Remember When

Parenting is hard.  There are many things I’ve gotten wrong over the past 20+ years, and I feel those failures acutely and often.  Some days, these people I am raising seem like a pack of cynics, a swarm of pessimists, a horde of disaffected youth.  My 16-year-old daughter said just yesterday: “We’re all just riding around on a giant rock. Nothing matters. There’s no point to anything.”

Parenting Fail?  Teenage angst?  High School junior feeling deep in her core that final exams are cruel and unjust?  In weaker moments, I’m sure their negativity is all my fault.

But on this fine, cold morning deep in the heart of 2020, the Marx Brothers might just prove me wrong.  Last night, the kids hopped on one of those fabulous memory trains, riding “Remember when…” moments endlessly through the evening.  

Remember when all the girls slept on toddler mattresses lined up on a futon frame in their tiny bedroom not fit for three?

Remember when the boys accidentally locked themselves in their own closet?

Remember when dad would make us fires in the morning before going to school, back in the days when we actually WENT somewhere for school, and we would have hot chocolate in the wee hours?

“Remember when” usually includes a few confessions, things the kids experienced together that we, their parents, weren’t aware of at the time.  Case in point: Remember when Elizabeth and Tallulah wanted to be in the older kids’ club, and the older kids said OK, you can but first you have to eat dirt and walk barefoot over these thorny brambles, and when the two youngest screwed up the gumption to do both, the older three abandoned the clubhouse and went on to other pursuits?  

Ahhhhhh, good times.

Remember when makes us laugh.  Remember when turns family lore into an exquisite cloak of nostalgia, the shared experiences of recalled moments wrapping us in love and hilarity. Thankfully, the ride continued:

Remember when Tallulah used to think yogurt was a finger food?
Remember when Sam made fun of us for pretending we were wearing jetpacks?
Remember when we used to eat paella by the backyard firepit?

And then this: Remember I Love Lucy?  And the original Batman series?  And Annie Get Your Gun?  And the Carol Burnett show and Tim Conway and the airplane sketch?  Remember Groucho and Harpo?

Watching them laugh as they remembered Marx Brothers and Carol Burnett sketches, I felt a certain pride that we had shared those particular American treasures with them when they were small.  That laughter will serve them well throughout their lives.  Surely, children with these memories to sustain them, with those particular cultural references embedded in their psyches, cannot help but emerge into adulthood with some joy and optimism!  Hooray! We did something right!

And so, on this fine, cold morning, deep in the heart of 2020, while teenagers sleep late and another pandemic day stretches out in front of me, Remember When is giving me hope.   

I will admit, however, that that confessional memory I didn’t previously know about makes me glad we didn’t have a wood chipper back in the day.  Who knows what backyard club membership would have entailed! 

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Note: My inspiration for this post came from Katherine Grubb of 10 Minute Novelists and this tweet, although I'll admit that writing this took me longer than 10 minutes.


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