“Mommy, what was my first word?” asks my oldest child.
“It was ‘Mama.’”
“What was my first word?” asks my middle child.
“I think it was ‘Mama.’”
“What was my first word?” asks my youngest.
When my first child was born, I was positive that I would remember his first word (“Mama!”), the day he rolled over for the first time (six weeks?) and how old he was when he started to crawl (one-ish?). I didn’t need to write anything down—this was my child. His precious milestones would be engraved in my memory for all time. I remember all kinds of useless stuff (if we were friends in elementary school, there is an 85 percent chance that I still remember your home phone number), so, of course, my excellent brain wouldn’t fail me when it came to something momentous, like my own son.
Then I had a daughter and, boy, was she an early roller. I will never forget that day when she was three weeks old and she rolled over on my bed from her back to her tummy. Unless she was rolling from her stomach to her back? Let’s just say that she was doing both—sounds plausible, right? She was very athletic as an infant.
I really didn’t expect it to be so hard to remember all the little details because, when they happen, they are so wonderful and, to my mind, unique and unforgettable—that is, until the moment I try to recall something and realize that all of my memories have glommed together like a wet Baby Mum-Mum. I don’t know if it has to do with a lack of sleep, aging or just the natural deterioration that comes with hundreds of hours of watching animated British pigs go about their daily lives, but my memory just isn’t what it used to be. And, frankly, neither are my organizational skills.
It’s not like I don’t have baby books. I do—I just need to fill them in. And I take a ton of videos—I just need to find time to go through hundreds of hours of video and fill in the pages in my baby books and we’ll be set. That can be my goal over the Christmas holidays, in addition to flipping the kids’ summer clothes, changing the clocks back to standard time and unpacking the rest of the boxes from our big move (which happened five years ago).
I’m so envious (and maybe a little resentful) of my friends who keep meticulous records—beautifully filled out, archival-quality baby books with locks of hair from their babies’ first haircuts neatly tucked into the pages. (I have my kids’ hair, too, in a box somewhere, except for that one envelope that stayed in my wallet a week too long and came open all over my credit cards. Whose hair was that?)
By the time my third child was born, I was beginning to notice the limitations of my memory. I briefly entertained the idea of using one of the precious baby books I had been gifted and/or bought, but then I realized that it wouldn’t be fair to the other two. How would I explain the absence of their baby books? A flood? A robbery? That I didn’t love them as much? So I let it go—for them, obviously.
My baby book—a virtual box set, really—is eight years of Facebook status updates, thousands of photos, hundreds of videos, and boxes and boxes in my closet crammed full of art, ultrasound photos and hospital bracelets. And, yes, my memory.
I can remember exactly what we were doing and how old my kids were on the day they took their first steps, but don’t ask me exactly how old they were when they uttered their first words. I have a video of my middle daughter dressed as a zebra at 17 months, saying “yes” to the question “Is the lollipop good?” (It was her first lollipop and her first time going out for Halloween.) Given my delightfully shocked response and how many times I made her say “yes” in the 30 seconds that followed, it appears as though it might have been the first time she said the word. (On the other hand, she can be pretty disagreeable, so I might have also just been pleasantly surprised that she finally answered something in the affirmative.)
I’m angry at myself for not documenting all this stuff. I didn’t think I would be the type of mom who has to make up one-quarter of the facts on the kindergarten intake questionnaire. I have a friend who takes a picture of her son holding a picture of himself taken on his previous birthday every year. I haven’t asked, but I’m sure her kid has a full, detailed baby book. That’s the type of mom I thought I’d be.
On the other hand, I am the type of mom who takes her kids to the park, swimming, to the library and to the museum, who bakes muffins and who sings with them and reads them stories. I can remember each of their faces the first time they were on a swing and their favourite stories and songs. I can remember who liked being dunked in swimming lessons and who howled when the water was too cold.
I would like to think that counts for something. Hopefully, my kids will remember all that stuff and think that it counts for something as well. And hopefully they won't compare notes when they ask me how old they were the first time they rolled over, fell out of bed or said the word “yes”—because, chances are, I will have given them all the same answers.
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