I don’t really remember learning to ride a bike. I don’t remember where it happened or when or what the bike looked like. I’m told I called my bike a “fally bike” because it was exceptionally skilled at not staying up right but try as I might I can’t personally play the video in my mind of that moment in my life.
But I remember how to ride a bike.
It is always an interesting thing to me when parents speak of the time their child won’t remember as though this is a free pass to do whatever is convenient and preferable to the adult. Perhaps they are leaving a baby to cry, circumcising, prematurely weaning (from the breast or other comforts)… if they won’t remember, then who cares how awful it is in the moment; the pain, the rejection, the fear will soon fade to leave only “the benefits”…
Leaving aside the sad reality that it is often the priority of parents to protect their child’s image of them, rather than their child; memories are not simply the moment. Everything that happens in our life, imprints on us; overtly, subtly, in ways we are aware of and in ways we are not. You’ve felt it, I’m sure, that instinctual response to a situation that you didn’t know was familiar. That you can’t remember living but your soul remembers how it felt.
So yes, as your young baby cries for you unanswered, you can be comforted in the knowledge that this memory won’t be something they can easily access from their catalogue. If you told them it never happened, they would most likely believe you because they have no recollection that would discredit that assertion. But they won’t have forgotten. In so many ways, they will live the reminder. And without the awareness to process the unresolved, every relationship they have will continue to be influenced by the one you have had with them.
They might not understand why they are so hesitant to trust but they’ll feel the barrier. They might not understand why they are driven to control their life but they’ll desperately fear not having it. They might not understand why they feel the need to hide the things they value most but they will justified in building strong emotional walls to protect them. They remember, we all remember.
So what do you actually want to contribute to your child’s story?