Since toddlers are only learning to talk and not yet able to express themselves very well, it’s easy to assume that they don’t have very good memories. In fact, for the longest time I assumed that Annie and her fellow rugrats were sort of like the guy from “Memento,” and woke up each day without a clue about the day before. That isn’t true though. The more Annie talks, the more it becomes clear that she actually has a memory that is frighteningly good.
Recently, for example, I went into the garage to do some laundry and before the door closed Annie slipped in behind me. She peered around in awe – since she normally isn’t allowed in the garage – then gasped and ran for the corner. I was confused until I remembered that, a few months earlier, Heather and I had moved some of her less-used toys into the garage to avoid clutter. As Annie dug through the toys I figured she’d forgotten all about them, so I decided to use the situation to my advantage.
“Yay!” I said. “You found the new toys! I just got all those for you!”
Annie spun to me and jutted a doll in the air.
“No, Dada. Not a new toy. Grandma got me ‘dis.”
I stared at the doll, trying to remember where it came from, then realized that my mom had indeed bought Annie that doll… six months ago! How the heck did she remember that?
Then, a few days later, Annie’s Tia Leah and her boyfriend, Tio Teddo (or Ted to adults) were here, and Annie said, “Do the trick with the box, Ted?” We were stumped until it dawned on us that at Christmas – nine months ago – Ted had made her giggle by doing a trick with a box a present came in.
Her memory blows me away in other ways, too. I am terrible at remembering song lyrics (so much so that I practically need a lyric sheet to sing “Happy Birthday”), but Annie already knows the words to dozens of songs, and not just ones like “Wheels on The Bus” but “Call Me Maybe,” too. She will even correct me when I sing songs wrong by saying, “No, Dada. It goes…” Crazy, huh?
The really crazy thing, though, is that as impressive as her memory is now, it will eventually go “poof!” I can’t remember anything that happened to me before the age of three or four, and neither can Heather. How can that be? How is it possible that we go from being toddlers who remember everything to adults who remember nothing of our first few years?
What strikes me as most sad is that all of the wonderful times Annie and I have had together will be forgotten. She’ll never remember our old apartment, singing silly songs, or cuddling on the couch watching “Yo Gabba Gabba.” Sometimes, when I do something cool for Annie like take her to the zoo, I think, “Why am I bothering? She’ll never remember this! I’m not gonna get credit for any of this awesome dad stuff!”
Still, though our kids won’t remember it, I have to think that what we do for them in those first few years does shape who they become. A baby/toddler who is loved and enriched has to be more likely to turn into a better adjusted adult than one who was ignored in a dirty diaper all day, right?