Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Pressure of Being the Memory Keeper

When I was young, 12 or 13 or so, I went through a period of anxiety in my life about the passage of time. I just got so worked up that all these days were passing, months, years, and my memory was so imperfect that these days were being lost to oblivion. Keeping a daily journal helped ease this anxiety.

Maybe it's because I've lived longer, but that anxiety I used to feel has worn off. I still keep a journal (weekly now), but I no longer feel anxious about remembering every single detail of every day I spend on this earth. It's not so important to me.

But as a mother, I absolutely feel this anxiety for my children, like I need to capture every precious detail of every aspect of every stage of babyhood and childhood. It's a different type of anxiety. I'm not so worried that I won't remember these precious things (the opposite actually feels true, like the memories of my babies are burned into my mind, although I'm sure with time I'll forget many of these things), but more that I feel like I need to preserve these moments in a tangible way so I can still have my babies when they are grown and gone.

But this pressure to be the memory keeper, to preserve their childhoods in minute detail, is almost as anxiety-inducing as NOT preserving these memories.

It all started with that first baby, when I had loads of time home alone with this new little baby, and nothing else to do (besides nursing, changing diapers, sleep training, etc.) but take loads of pictures, stage monthly photo shoots, take hours of video footage, and turn those pictures and videos into elaborate blog posts documenting monthly progress, and photo book scrapbooks. I also kept a monthly journal of letters to my baby detailing every developmental milestone, every stat from the doctor, every sound and movement and detail that only a parent (or over-involved grandparent) could possibly care about.

Someone warned me that whatever I did for the first baby by way of memory keeping would be the standard I'd feel obligated to keep with all my children, except it would be impossibly too high once more kids came along. I scoffed at this because I thought these memory preservation activities would always, always be such a high priority for me that I'd never fail to do them for all my children.

Fast forward three years, add a second kid, and grad school, and preschool, and all that other stuff that comes up with a growing family, and I get it. I'm still trying to do all the stuff for Baby #2, but the journal entries are getting shorter, the monthly photo shoots are now five minute affairs when I remember to actually pull out the camera while everyone is awake and dressed and in a decent mood, and the poor family blog where all of these memories get posted is sorely neglected. I'm behind on photo books (my form of scrapbooking). And I'm feeling guilt.

In my ongoing decluttering process, I'm gearing up to tackle sentimental objects, but just thinking about tackling the objects has got me thinking about the process behind creating those objects. Perhaps now is the time to declutter my sentimental thought processes and practices as well.

And so I'm thinking through this.

-What about my children's babyhoods and childhoods do I want to be preserved?

-In what way should those memories be preserved? Are electronic files good enough, or do we need prints, books, paper sources?

-Are social media posts enough? Instagram? Facebook? A blog post? If I didn't instagram it, did our trip to the park even happen? Will the internet even be around when my children are old enough to appreciate this stuff?

-How many photos are enough? How many videos?

-Do I want to focus on the everyday moments, or the special occasions? A little of both?

-Who is this even for? The kids? Me? The grandparents?

-What are my core values when it comes to preserving memories?

-Is this an area to simplify, or is this an area worth the effort and mental energy of doing more?

I don't have answers to any of these questions, but they are things I'm thinking about right now as I attempt to simplify and declutter my life. I do know that these things, the journaling, the photo taking, all of it, takes an enormous amount of mental energy from me, not to mention time, but at the same time it feels very worthwhile and important.

I'd love to know, what are your thoughts on memory keeping, especially when it comes to kids? What are your favorite genres (social media, photo books, journals, good old fashioned scrapbooking)? Do you feel guilt in this area of parenthood?

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