Are you on Instagram? I am. I enjoy flicking through the perfect photos of the perfect bits of perfect lives.
I even more enjoy the out-takes where instagrammers share the behind-the-scenes bits in their stories of what was REALLY happening when that perfect photo was taken. I like to see them keeping it real. I don’t believe the perfection, and I don’t want to believe it.
What do you make of hashtags? I use them because people who know tell me that it will mean more people will see my photos and that seems like something that any self-respecting blogger would want. There’s a hashtag I have a problem with though. It grates. It’s not the hashtag I guess really, but more the concept. #makingmemories (Yes, I’ve used it). There are 4.7 million posts on instagram with that hashtag as I type. Scroll through it. What do you see? Perfection, smiles and happiness. Memories. Good memories.
Now, I get that instagram is there to be pretty, and that’s fine, it’s a form of art. But #makingmemories to me says more. It sort of asserts an element of control.
While we might do things with our kids to that we know they will enjoy and that we hope they will remember, we don’t make memories for them, they make their own.
I remember the sun shining all summer long when I was a child.
I remember the sand on the tartan rug as we huddled together dripping with sea water, eating Marietta biscuits.
I remember falling and cutting my knees, and my primary school teacher spraying it with that awful stingy spray for cut knees that I begged her to keep away from me.
I remember rolling in the grass and playing fisherman’s nets with my cousins. I remember getting sunburned on holiday. I remember the hurty hairbrush. I remember being terrified as I chased around my Granny’s house by a daft cockerel. I remember painting my own schoolbag and being devastated that I had destroyed it.
I have memories, supplemented by dogeared photos, of family holidays abroad, a long wait for a pizza in Cyprus, strawberries and cream with sparklers, hot sand.
I remember some favourite toys like my walky-talky doll.
I remember the feel of a ribbon dragging across my face as my mother tied a bow in my hair. I remember smells and sounds and sights. I remember sorting silver paper that my Granny used to save for the blind and years.
I remember the smell of my Grandad, a musky, comforting “old man” smell. I remember the theme tune to the Riordans, and link that memory with mashing dark green cabbage into mashed potato with puddles of real butter and eating it with bacon. I remember my Dad stroking my hair and singing songs to me and pretending to be asleep so he would think it would have worked.
I remember Mam being there, in the kitchen, in the armchair, always being within arm’s reach. I remember hot apple tarts, and chocolate and pear sponges, flans and butterfly buns. I remember the “noise” of Dad playing the banjo. I remember fights in the car over who got to sit at the window. Elbows in the ribs. Stopping for ice-cream, “A choc-ice or a brunch?” I remember running around the table with my brothers until we got dizzy. I remember watching Anything Goes on Saturday morning.
I remember the smell of Deep Heat outside the GAA dressing rooms. I remember the theme music to Glenroe. I remember the scent of Pledge on a Friday afternoon when I’d come in from school. I remember making potions in the garden. I remember having chicken pox for my tenth birthday. I remember the smell of the poster paints in school as we made Halloween masks from Rice Krispie boxes.
Highs, lows and everything in between have lodged in my memory. There’s no rhyme nor reason to it. How many of these random things would my parents have chosen for me to remember over thirty years later?
For us parents to say that we’re making memories for our kids isn’t really true. We can’t make them, we can give them experiences and hope they remember them (or remind them about them incessantly so they never forgot)
We’re their parents, not their brainwashers.
They’ll remember the yellow shop where they got an ice-cream but there was no strawberry flavour left, not the cathedral next to it. They’ll remember the nettle sting not the beautiful wild meadow. They’ll remember the everyday, the mundane. That pencil case, this favourite jumper, the chipped plate. Memories that stay.
Some might say that it’s not that different than before, with the family photo album being replaced by thousands of digital photographs shared daily across multiple social media. But I think it is. It’s more photos, more aide-memoires.
My husband and I often joke to each other when we do something nice together as a family that we should tell the kids to remember this, like we have some way to access their brains and embed memories.
We don’t choose our children’s memories, they don’t choose them either, some just stick.
I’m sure my parents despair at some of mine, but memories aren’t parents’ to make. They belong to the kids. So let’s remember that.