Sometimes, I think about the future when you are grown and I am gone. When all that’s left of me are photographs and memories. I know what the photographs will show. I took most of them, after all. But the memories I’m less sure of. I wonder what will stick with you after all that time. How will you remember me?
One day, your grandkids will ask you about me. What will you say?
Will you tell them I was always distracted? Will you remember that I looked at my phone too much? Will you tell them I didn’t play enough, and I never seemed interested in your games?
But, I hope you also tell them I never said no to one more hug. I hope you tell them about our adventures to the car wash or to get Munchkins after a doctor’s visit. I hope you tell them about our epic Nerf battles and about reading the same stories over and over again. I hope you tell them I never finished a cup of coffee because I got too busy doing something for you. I hope you tell them about birthday streamers and living room campouts and toothbrushes in your stockings.
As you look through old photos, it will bring up memories. What will they be?
Will you remember how I was impatient and quick to anger? How the house was never clean and you never had any socks? Will you remember how I got angry if you asked what was for dinner?
But, I hope you also remember how I rubbed your head when it hurt. I hope you remember how you could weasel morning screen time out of me if it meant I could sleep a little longer. I hope you remember how it felt to climb onto my pillow and smoosh your face into mine. I hope you remember your sticky fingers while we glued and cut and colored. I hope you remember the goofy nicknames I called you and how I embarrassed you by cheering too loudly or kissing you too much.
When you come to a tough time with your spouse, you will think about your daddy and me.
Will you remember how I snapped at him? How I’d criticize the way he did things and disregard what he’d say?
I’m sure you will.
But, I hope you also remember how I encouraged him to follow his heart. How I apologized when I was unfair. I hope you remember how I loved him even when I was furious with him, and how I would laugh with him, snuggle with him, and forgive him.
When parenting is hard, you will think back on your childhood and how I handled it.
Will you remember the times I unfairly punished you? Will you remember how I yelled and snapped at you when things felt out of control? Will you remember the times I hurt your feelings and made you feel misunderstood or less important?
I bet so.
But, I hope you also remember how I let you be yourself. I hope you remember that I was always there. I hope you remember how I listened and tried to see your side. I hope you remember the times I let you feel sad and let you be mad. How I gave you time. How I gave you space. I hope you remember when I stuck up for you or reminded you that it wasn’t your fault. And I hope you remember how, after I messed up, I told you I was sorry.
It’s easy for me to get caught up in doing everything perfectly. I can get lost in never making the wrong choices or saying the wrong things. It’s easy to think that if I’ve messed up, I’ve ruined it forever. But I think in the end, you won’t remember only the good or only the bad.
I think in the end, it all counts.
It’s all a reminder that none of us are perfect, and that we can all recover from failure. It’s a reminder that amidst the good, there is often bad, and that amidst the bad, there is often good.
In those days, when I’m not there. When nothing’s left but stories and memories, and the only truth about me is the one inside your heart. In those days, when you look at how my life shaped yours, I don’t know what you will remember. I simply hope the joy outweighs the rest.