While driving in the car with my four year-old son the other day I had an eye-opening conversation. Out of nowhere he said to me, “Mommy, I miss Nana. Why did she have to go to heaven? When will I see her again?”
It wasn’t until I realized that we were passing the cemetery on the way to school as he was pointing out the window and remembering. He recollected everything about the day we buried her like it was yesterday and he was only three at the time. He remembered the music at the church, the tears at the service and the flowers throughout the burial. I was so taken back at his ability to articulate so many details from that day.
We briefly talked about Nana and heaven, and since he had so many clear memories of this I decided to ask him about some other moments we have shared as a family, more of happier times by trying to make the conversation a bit lighter (especially right before dropping him off at school). I said to him, “Remember before the weather got cooler, Daddy and I took you to the zoo and you got to see all the animals?”
“You don’t remember walking through the gates to see the pigs, alligators and even a snake?”
“No. When did we go there?”
I couldn’t believe it. I continued, “You seriously don’t remember our trip to the zoo? It wasn’t even that long ago!”
“No, I don’t.”
“Well then, what do you remember?”
“I remember that you yelled at me last night because I didn’t eat my dinner.”
The car slowly came to a halt and my heart sank. My son, the child who remembers every vivid detail of my Nana’s passing – the same child who has not one memory of the happy trip to the zoo, DOES indeed remember the tone of my voice that evening and that I was angry with him.
Obviously, this is not what I want my child to remember. I have no control on what my son does and does not remember. However, I am choosing to forget the moment in which I yelled at him the night before while losing my patience; for snapping, barking, and bickering over a silly plate of uneaten food.
Is this what I want my child to reflect on as he thinks of his own childhood? The moments that I have been a mother low on patience with a voice that sometimes reflects resentment, stress and sheer tiredness?
No, which is why I am grateful I do get another chance to make this right. I am given a new day to try harder, learn from my mistakes and ultimately, become a better mother in the process.
Because my son certainly deserves it and so do I, even in the midst of a pile of ketchup and uneaten chicken fingers.