Why a short attention span makes things more confusing.

I’ve been told I have an incredible memory. I mean, I can’t remember which of my kids did what when, but I can remember all the lyrics to the Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen song. (I’m 8 years postpartum now, at what age will pregnancy brain go away?) So while the last decade or so has been a blur, I have fairly vivid memories of my childhood, all the way down to my toddler years. The funny thing about this is that, now that I’m a parent, certain things make way more sense. I don’t know if some of my misunderstandings were due to my short attention span, or if it’s just hard being a kid, but things were damn confusing when I was little.

Instance #1
I was two or just about two when my family moved to Denver for about six months. I have both memories of winter and summer. My mom and I went outside and collected a bucket of snow and huddled on the couch together eating it and watching The Young and the Restless. What? That’s a normal childhood. In the summer I remember having a stand off with my dad about pool safety. He maintained that I sit in a floatie or I don’t get in the pool. I argued that screw that I wanted in the water of my own accordthankyouverymuch. I don’t remember the outcome, but I’m guessing that he probably won.

But there was this one day when there was a rainbow out the back window. We lived on the second or maybe third floor, I don’t know, and one of the back rooms – I guess it was my parents’ bedroom because it was not the room with my changing table – had a window that looked out over the parking lot. I remember being at this window with my dad and him trying to help me find the rainbow. The directions were utterly complex. First I had to look to the left and find the tree, and then I had to look next to the tree. Then I had to find our car and look above it and to the side. Then I had to look at that building in the distance and, finally I was able to find the rainbow. I remember thinking it was such a convoluted path to the rainbow and I was in awe that anyone was ever able to find them.

Happy Thing: DOUBLE RAINBOW ALL THE WAY (probably)
Not the actual rainbow being blogged about. Like we we had the luxury to use film to take frivolous photos of city rainbows back in the dark ages in 1980. Pft.

There came a time with my own children when something similar occurred. I don’t even remember what exactly. But suddenly, 25 years later, it clicked in my brain. The path to the rainbow wasn’t complex, it was that he was trying different tactics to help me find it. Each time I had to look for a landmark was a completely separate attempt, not one long set of instructions.

I’m a little slow. Thank god I’m cute.

Instance #2
When I was in kindergarten we got kittens. They were Siamese and I named them Brother and Sister because they were a brother and sister. (I’m slow and also terrible at naming things.) Before we got all the way home, though, I changed Brother’s name to Booties because he had, you know, booties. (Really. I sucked at naming things.)

what not to do
Not the actual kittens. Not actually even a kitten.

Anyway, with kittens comes a litter box, and with a litter box comes germs. My actual memory is of my mom telling me, “If you touch litter you’ll have to go to the bathroom.” I assumed, naturally, that litter has magical or scientific properties that fill your bladder and make you have to pee right that second. Once, while my mom wasn’t looking, I snuck to the litter box and tested the warning (with clean litter. come on. I wasn’t stupid). AND IT WORKED. I TOTALLY HAD TO PEE RIGHT THAT SECOND.

Psychology is cool.

Years later I finally reasoned that what she probably actually told me was something along the lines of, “Don’t touch the litter box or you’ll have to go to the bathroom and wash your hands.”

I have a reeeeeeeeally short attention span. Like. Shorter than a sentence.

Instance #3
One of these instances is not entirely like the others. Hint: It’s this instance.

After Denver we moved to England. Only for like a couple of weeks (what? that’s normal), but I have memories there as well. I remember my bedroom being all set up with my bedspread and the curtains my grandma had made. I remember riding in a taxi cab and they had these tiny seats just for me that faced backwards and IT WAS THE COOLEST THING EVER. I remember being hungry and wandering alone into a darkened kitchen, opening the refrigerator to a bright portal of light and sustenance, and finding absolutely nothing illuminated except for one head of cauliflower. Which was disgusting. I remember that the car was all backwards with the drivey bits being on the wrong side. Some of these memories are probably more accurate than other memories.

I also remember the basic floorplan of the house. I remember where the kitchen was, I remember the hallway, I remember where the bedrooms were. Here’s my basic memory, omitting those areas I have totally no memory of:

my memories of our house in england

A couple of years ago I was going through my mom’s papers and I found the letter she’d written to family back here describing things. She’d included a map of the house:

my mom's floor plan of our house in england

I see she makes no mention whatsoever of an empty refrigerator. Gross overlook, if you ask me. Of course, one might say that I forgot that there even was a dining room. One might be totally right. One might counter that who cares about dining rooms, especially when the only thing to eat is cauliflower. But otherwise I’m impressed that I so clearly remembered a house I stayed in for so brief a time when I was 2 1/2 years old. Clearly my memory is my superpower. I mean. Unless you want me to tell you things that happened last week.

It’s funny now looking back at my childhood the things that have become clearer now that I’ve had kids. I know that remembering how I saw things helps me sometimes when I parent my kids, and helps me understand where they are coming from, just as much as parenting them helps me click certain facts into place about my own history. My children’s futures help me solve the mysteries of my own past. In these cases just memories of simple events, but I think the statement can be applied broadly to our whole selves as well.

At the very least, it’s a chance to get out the old family photos and reminisce about how cute I was.

potty in the car
Cute and peeing in the back of the car. Like you do.

Filed in The Zebra

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • bethany actually July 14, 2013, 2:29 pm

    I have super-clear memories of things from when I was only a toddler, too, yet cannot remember what I had for lunch yesterday.

    Reply
  • Jen July 14, 2013, 4:00 pm

    I have a lot of childhood memories from the age of around 2 to 8 ish. Then my memories get really, really fuzzy. That kind of trips me out because shouldn’t I remember the more “recent” stuff more? I agree that memories help out with parenting. Although, sometimes, my kids do things that I would never, ever do and I’m completely confused by their actions.

    Reply

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