I just retold a story to a friend about a life-changing incident that happened to me when I was five years old. It is so vivid: my little blonde curly-headed self standing there in the driveway next to my blue bike with the pink flowered banana seat. We didn't have helmets then, and I had already shed my training wheels. It was a sunny afternoon, like almost any other afternoon in Southern California, but that one conversation shaped part of who I am permanently. It is something I think about almost every single day, sometimes multiple times in a day.
One conversation when I was that young and those words, and what I did, those words inform my character and actions every day.
I am 40 now, with a lifetime of education, and conversation and
yet ten minutes, 35 years ago changed me, and for the better. I could
have learned the lesson another way, farther down the road, but it made
life easier for me having that knowledge early-on. And I am so grateful.
I won't tell the whole story because I know who reads this blog, or might read this blog, and telling the story out loud, here, would change it, and it would read the wrong way, and sound self-aggrandizing, but there is something that struck me as I shared the story privately.
What will my children remember?
I realized that I can remember so many details about what happened, and what was said. I remember being flush with shame, and wanting to take back what I had done, even if no harm had come of it. And I got a good look at how a face crumples when someone is disappointed in me. Then I realized that my daughter is almost 6, and if I can remember being that age, she will too. And my son, well, he's eleven and a half, so it's pretty clear that when he writes his memoirs I am in trouble.
The words I say, my actions, my goals, and the way I celebrate or despair, my kids are watching all of it. What imprint am I making? Am I giving them the right lessons to lean upon when they're 40? And what am I leaving behind after talking with friends over coffee? What do they recall later, after we have waved "goodbye" in the parking lot?
Luckily there is tomorrow, and probably many days after that to get this parenting thing, or some part of this thing right. I will mess up. I will be short-tempered, or hurry when we should have enjoyed the journey. I will never get it all mastered, but tomorrow I am going to do my best to make sure that whatever my children might recall of these years, some of it will be worth remembering.