On Friday morning - in a pre-6am rush of blood to the head - I took the kids to the park for breakfast. This is what happens when you check Instagram before dawn; you suddenly buy into all this ‘making memories’ bullshit. You’re familiar with the concept of making memories, yes? It’s a cunning new way of crafty, interactive mothers making useless, TV-reliant mothers feel like shit.
WELL, I thought, as I looked at the latest Instagram post of perfectly groomed mammas making perfectly styled Halloween-themed cake pops with their perfectly dressed, underwear-wearing children, I CAN MAKE MEMORIES TOO. I’M GONNA TAKE THOSE BITCH KIDS TO THE PARK FOR BREAKFAST, AND I’M GONNA PHOTOGRAPH IT, AND I’M GONNA ADJUST THE CONTRAST AND BRIGHTNESS OF THE PICTURE SO THE RAIN DOESN’T LOOK QUITE SO THREATENING, AND YOU CAN’T SEE THE SNOT DRIPPING FROM ALICE’S NOSE, AND I’M GONNA SMUGLY, AND WITHOUT HESITATION, HASHTAG IT ‘MAKING MEMORIES’.
And I did, ‘cos I’m a smug bitch, when I want to be. But come on gang, let’s be honest, my kids aren’t gonna remember eating crunchy nut cornflakes and raisin toast in an empty park. Oh yeah, we made memories alright, but the sort that require years of psychological counselling to recover from. For example:
Frankie needed a poo. In the absence of toilets, I had to let him shit into my hands, protected only by a thin sheaf of kitchen roll. It was a runny poo. An elderly lady walking a dog handed me a doggy poo bag to deposit the shit. I believe this to be the lowest point of my actual life.
Alice had decided this was the day she stopped wearing nappies, and dutifully pissed her way around the sandpit. I was like DUDE, stop pouring your juice into … oh.
Seagulls ate our toast.
Memories? Yeah, we made them alright, and all before 8am.
Here’s the thing: we - us humans - don’t remember the good stuff. I mean the BRILLIANT stuff, like a trip to Disneyland, yeah maybe, but the run-of-the-mill, everyday good stuff? Nope. Without a single exception, my earliest memories involve tears. For example:
My Grandad Norman’s dog, Horace (who, I hasten to add, had recently been crowned SECOND-UGLIEST DOG IN BRITAIN), eating my sweets. I cried.
Lady Di driving past our nursery school, but me disliking the nursery school teacher to such an extent that I refused to wave a flag. And cried.
My mum getting into a fight on the merry-go-round at a Channel 7 teddy bears’ picnic. Again, I cried.
My Aunty Pauline blacking up for a street parade around the streets of Newcastle. (Different times, friends, different times.) Boy did I fucking cry.
And finally, the Michelin man making an appearance at our Royal Wedding street party in 1981. HELL YES I cried.
I asked Paul what his earliest memories were, and he said - without hesitation - smoking. And I was like DUDE, your EARLIEST memories, and he goes, ‘Oh, right, getting mugged for my earring. And falling out of a moving car.' I don’t know what this says about Leeds in the mid 70s, but clearly it’s only a matter of time before Mike Leigh makes a gritty urban drama about my husband’s childhood.
Which got me to thinking: I think we need to stop putting too much pressure on ourselves to ‘make memories’. I mean, not me, I don’t do anything anyway, but you - you should stop making such an effort. When Ben was small, and Frankie was a teeny tiny human, and we were considering selling him to pay for a day out at Legoland, Paul’s sister wisely said: ‘What for? It’s not like they’ll remember it’, so we went to Lego WORLD, instead, which was basically just a glorified Lego shop in Manchester’s Trafford Centre, and perfectly adequate for our memory making. (As an aside, don’t tell Ben about his whole Lego world/land situation. He still thinks he went to Lego LAND. He can’t understand what all the fuss is about.)
My kids aren’t going to remember the zoo trips and aquarium excursions and Bali holidays. I’d like to think we’ll get some return on our investments, but that’s bullshit. They’ll remember shitting in a park, and having their elbow dislocated by an over-enthusiastic seatbelt putter-onner, and being whacked in the head by an unskilled cricketing sibling, and getting stuck at the very top of a playcentre climbing frame, and any NUMBER of parenting cock-ups by yours truly.
On that note: anyone fancy contributing to my kids' future psychological counselling fund?