The Real Reason I Obsessively Keep Memories of My Kids

I think of you often, you know. I imagine you'll have a few more wrinkles, a slower tongue, shoulders rounded from years of full, weighty life. Future me. 

I can see you straining to recall it all. How his voice sounded, how her baby hair smelled, how it felt to carry life. That's why I do this for you: I write, chronicle, snap, jot down, capture, obsessively trap memories for you—for future me. I know you'll want them desperately someday. 

I know you'll long to be in this body again—not for stronger legs or sharper eyes but to feel the kick of your unborn child and to hold your sleeping toddler. I know you'll wish you could remember watching her first steps, how it felt to hear her say her first "mama"—how your insides swelled and became heavy like an over-full sponge just watching her sleep. 

That's why I fill in the blanks in pastel-colored books to detail birth weight, milestones, firsts and words. That's why I write down the little things, why I take a thousand pictures and can't delete a single one, why I commit everyday moments to memory. I know you'll want them. People think we mothers keep records to please our children or appease some internal guilt—but we know it's for us. We know it's because our brains won't do us the courtesy; we have to bottle these days ourselves. We don't care how cliche or cheesy or hopelessly uncool we look; we have to do our future selves this service.

I know, future me, that you'll wish your aging mind could replay these golden moments, and that instead you'll only recall a golden haze to represent years filled with hours and minutes that dripped with ordinary meaning. Your chest will remember better than your head—you'll feel these memories viscerally. But you won't be able to experience it all again. 

When I imagine you, I see today through your eyes. Your perspective helps; it imbues morning oatmeal and afternoon cuddles and evening routines with precious meaning. Knowing how you'll long for these days makes me treasure them. I wish I could give you a time travel ticket back to today, the place I am, the minute I am; baby kicking in your womb, toddler snuggling beside you, tiny home in disarray around you. But time is crushingly linear; there are no go-backs or take-backs. So I do the next best thing. I build as many time capsules as I can with words, pictures, notes, tiny clothes, homemade growth charts. I'll take those weekly and monthly pictures of scrubbed smiling faces and hoard the candid moments with shaky videos and blurry snaps. I'll scribble notes with dates about the minutiae of their growing up years—how she learned to open a new drawer or the wonder in her eyes at a ladybug.  

I do it for you. I know you'll miss these days with a physical ache. I know you'll wish you could remember. I know you'll bless me for it.