Funny story. Years ago, my daughter told her preschool teacher that before moving to town, our home was in shambles and we ate our dinners on the living room floor.
Sort of. Actually, we had removed our carpet to expose the hard wood floors and had packed up all the furniture in preparation for our move.
Apparently, our daughter believed at the time that the reason we moved at all was because our house was such a mess!
She was right, the house was a mess, but the mess was the result of the move, not the cause.
But can I argue with her recollection of the event? No, her memory was correct. The difference lies in our perspective.
After all, I was a child once too. I have my own childhood memories. I know they are directly influenced by my perspective or point of view at the time. I also know that my memories are mine. They say a great deal about me, and they are important to me; right or wrong.
Here’s an example. When I was around 10 or 12 years old, there was a TV advertising campaign for what was called “Crime Stoppers”. Now for whatever reason, I perceived that the ad was for “Crying Stoppers”.
From what I recall, the ad was saying that if you notice a “crier”, notify the police in order to interrupt the “cry”, and the individual will be quickly apprehended with your help.
This commercial sent me into a panic. I truly believed that if I were to cry, my parents could call the police, and they could take me away.
I had no knowledge of criminals or courts or the law or anything like that, so to me, I was the biggest problem facing our country; I cried too much.
I realized that I’d better get a handle on my problem, or I would be locked away for the rest of my life. So, the next time I got in trouble, no tears. I was strong. I was not going to show my upset or hurt because the consequences were too great.
I must say, it was impressive how I held it together.
From that experience I learned that the mind is a powerful thing. I learned that pain is fleeting, that eventually it will stop, and I will be okay.
These were important lessons for me and have a great deal to do with who I am today. The impact of that experience continues, even after I learned that my perceptions were completely wrong.
The point is, as parents we have no idea, nor do we have any control over how our children will remember or experience their childhood.
There is no question that sometimes they will be completely wrong in terms of the facts. But one thing is certain. Both you as the parent and they as the child are entitled to your varied perspectives.
As hard as it may be to hear sometimes, there is a great deal to be learned from how each of you sees yourselves in your own lives. It is a way of communicating how each of you has come to be who you are.
Not only that, the key to any relationship is a shared reality. Once you can agree or accept each other’s reality, the possibilities are limitless.
Although my daughter’s perspective was that the mess was to blame for our move, she also remembered that she was together with her family in the midst of it all. We can at least agree on that. To me, that means everything.