Sometimes we just want things to be the way they used to be. “Remember when” becomes “If only it could be the way it was.” We long for the past so much that we miss out on the present or future. Remembering isn’t bad. Our memories help us celebrate moments that led us to where we are. Some are more pleasant than others. Some are more sticky, pulling us back more, than others. Some aren’t even accurate. Our memories will differ from other people’s memories of the same moments. Sometimes the differences are due to perspectives and ages at the time. Other times, we “rewrite” our memories. We want something to be better (or worse) than reality. We don’t want to remember the negative of what happened. Or sometimes, we don’t want to remember the positive. Recalling something in a specific way serves a purpose for us. Whatever the purpose, we can get stuck.
We need to place standing stones to remind us of where we’ve been and why, but when we camp under those stones, refusing to make new memories, refusing to see how people have grown, we miss out. We can’t keep relationships with our kids stuck at certain ages. They’re growing every day. Hopefully, they’ll begin they can’t keep relationships with us at certain ages either. The mom my daughters had at age three isn’t the same mom they had at ages seven, eleven, sixteen, twenty, or now. They’ve grown up, and so have I. We’ve learned lessons that, I hope, we don’t let go of. Maybe we particularly enjoyed certain ages or memories, but those snapshots don’t define us.
I tried to keep up with memory books, photo albums, etc., as my daughters grew. There are some gaps when I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked, but that’s okay. I was still making memories. The books, especially the ones I put together when then were young, weren’t as much for me as for them. I was fairly certain I’d remember their younger years better than they would. While that’s still probably true, so much has happened between then and now, I’m certainly glad I have those pages of snapshots and memories to flip through and remember. As many memories stay in my mind, I like to have even more on pages, not that I can plaster on the walls and live surrounded by them but to visit every now and then, then close the book and be present in today.
When we ask, “Where did time go?,” “What happened to my little girl?,” “Why can’t you stop growing up just for a moment?,” our intentions might be good, but it’s important to know why we’re asking the questions. After all, we know the answers. The time has gone by as time always does. The little girl grew up and became a teen or adult. And none of us can stop growing, nor should we. Do we really want to live in the past? I hope not.
My memories of motherhood are good. Sure, there were challenging, exhausting, disheartening moments, but that’s not what I immediately remember when I think of the past. As much as I loved having a hands-on, front row seat as my girls grew up, I wouldn’t go back even if I could. No matter what point in time I’d choose, I’m miss out on something between then and now. More important, they’d miss out on becoming the adults they’ve become.
What encouragement from the past can help you appreciate “now” and anticipate the future?