Much love and conversation gathered around yesterday’s post on making memories, not money. Thanks. And while I believe my words to be true, I’m also wrestling with another feeling. I would compare it to a doctor who diagnosed you with pneumonia and even said it might be life threatening and sent you home with instructions but withheld the fact that the pneumonia would be much easier to beat if your body wasn’t dealing with AIDS.*
You see, pointing to consumerism was my easy way out. When I sat down to write, to shake out those thoughts and feelings, I held up the first shiny thing for all to see. I didn’t dig deep enough. When I finally did, the gem required a bit of polishing. My goal in this space is primarily to give honest writing. Yesterday wasn’t untruthful; it simply wasn’t the whole story.
So what is sitting wrong with me when it comes to contemporary memory making? If you’re a modern parent, it has to do with our hands. Take a look at them. Notice the knuckles. For most of us, they’re a tad white. On the other side, we might even find metaphorical blisters from hanging on too tight.
Did you catch that in Inside Out? When we dip into the mind of the adult characters, who was in charge? Who shined most brightly? Which feeling did the others turn to when things got crazy? Anger. Fear. Even Disgust was as large as Joy. I don’t think Pixar was being mean, I think they were being honest.
Being a parent is a hard gig. We love so much. When it comes to raising little humans, so there is so much room for fear. Sometimes, rightful fear. We should fear toddlers alone by the water. And by the road. And in the car. (Clearly, toddlers anywhere is a justifiable cause for fear.) Yet I say, it’s not fear itself that is the problem – it’s what we do with the fear.
When Pixar invites me to write the sequel – in which Riley goes into puberty and a new emotion, Humiliation, shows up – I would portray the parents trying to entertain Fear by having him arm wrestle with Sense of Control. Sense of Control cannot actually touch the motherboard. She just occupies time and energy with all the other emotions by challenging them to arm wrestling competitions.
It happens from the moment we find out that a little peanut is growing inside of us – we arm wrestle with fear by avoiding a turkey sandwich. When the little one arrives and we have to drive him home from the hospital and we want to put a laser force field around the car to warn everyone on I-270 to stay the F*&^ away, my brand new baby is in here! so we pacify ourselves with the fact that we did our research on the safest car seats possible and we bought the one with the highest ratings, the most expensive model, but our “baby’s safety is worth it.”
Or we get stuck in the Food Vortex. We simply want our children to grow up healthy and give them long lives without fibromyalgia. This is a good and noble cause. I will support you in avoiding the HFCS and GMOs and anything else we cannot pronounce. But can we call a spade a spade? We’re not just “giving our children a healthy start” – we’re arm wrestling fear.
So now that I’ve told you about the life-altering disease, let’s get back to the current state of pneumonia and how our generation sets out to Make Memories. We venture out and pay the $74.95 because we fear we’re not living a good enough life. We want to Make All the Memories because we want to send our children away with something – anything! – that will bring happiness later on. That same sense of happiness we were given. But our mothers forgot to write down how they did it and because there were no blogs in 1982 we’re stuck reading all the car seat reviews on our own. (This, and the fact that they didn’t use car seats.)
I’m going to hypothesize here and reserve the right to edit it later. Our parents were clueless about the dangers of the world and parenting in general. Thus, the lack of car seats. And setting us up for an addiction to Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. But in their obliviousness, they were free from the fear of doing it wrong. They were free to worry less about giving their children All of the Memories and instead focused on things like having a good life, being a good friend and staying in love. At least, it seems that’s what happened with my parents. And grandparents. And for that matter, most of the adults in my life while I was growing up.
When I scan through my list of memories from yesterday – and the ones pointed out by others later – my grandparents didn’t sit down and play endless rounds of Skip-Bo because they wanted to give me a happy childhood. They loved playing the game. They did things they loved and invited us along with them.
In the end, we cannot manufacture happy memories for our children. We simply can’t. We could wake up every day with the intention of Going and Making a Memory (instead of buying one) but ultimately it’s up to some unknown brain cell god if the magical moment we’ve tried to conjure will actually lock down into long term.
The one thing we can do is give our children joy-driven parents. We are the only ones who can do that for my kids. I will never be able to create a Magical Childhood. But with fear silenced, I can be free to realize I don’t have to. This world is magical enough without me at the helm. There’s a Creator who’s much better at that job.
My job is to live a good life and invite my children to sit beside me. My job is to love JJ so much and so obviously that my kids want to someday get married. My job is to be a devoted sister and sister-in-law so that my kids will want to have those kinds of siblings (and, hopefully when full cognition is a go, be those kinds of siblings). My job is to be the kind of daughter that will inspire my kids to live in close relationship with their parents. My job is to be the kind of employee and employer that will make my kids believe that work is a privilege and a joy, not a punishment. My job is to be the kind of student of life that will encourage my kids to follow the curiosity and ask the questions that spurs creativity. My job is to live in awe of God so my children want to live lives that include Him.
In short, I don’t need to create a magical world, one that shields my children from the horrors of this world. I don’t need to Make Memories to block out the bad stuff. I simply need to point out the beauty of the things right beside them, the things we all believe make living this life so worth it.
We don’t need to make memories and we don’t need to fear a life that isn’t good enough because life is beautiful and memorable on its own if you see it for what it is.
So, may you – may we – silence fear. May we stop “making” memories and instead enjoy the beauty that life already has to offer.
*In the world of bad simile, cancer gets the headlines. But too many people I love already hate cancer. I’m an equal-opportunity writer when it comes to using shitty diseases. If anyone out there keeps a running list of ailments that slowly destroys your body, feel free to share and I’ll add to my list.