Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Selective memory syndrome

Picture the scene. Boy two wallops boy one during a heated ownership dispute over a particular red brick that actually belongs to one of the twins' toys. Enter law enforcement, aka mummy, who bellows at the top of her, quite considerable, voice for them to stop fighting. In steps grandma, the cosy, soft spoken voice of reason, with the gentle reprimand 'You are quite a shouty mummy aren't you?'.

Hmm, methinks to myself. It is true that maintaining order in our often chaotic household of mini men does frequently see my volume turned up to maximum, and my usual response to infantile in-fighting is to scream demands for instant cessation as loud as I can. I find this method is pretty effective, and so far I pride myself on not having been reduced to physical violence to quell disorder. Not I hasten to add that I think a swift slap is out of order, it's just that I have never been able to bring myself to do it to my precious babies, which may explain their somewhat delinquent behaviour from time to time.

However, what really strikes me about this little exchange is just how much of my childhood that sweet little grandma seems to have wiped from her memory banks. Perhaps it's no surprise that my eldest has rechristened her memory a forgettery, because her fond recollection of rose-tinted motherhood don't chime with my memories of her as a shouty, slappy, generally quite snappy mum.

This is not to say I don't adore her or that she wasn't a wonderful mum. I loved being a little kid having doughnut eating competitions with her to see who would crack and lick the sugar from their lips first, or walking through town to buy a new car at WH Smith every week, or mooching around the supermarket choosing what to eat during our weekly shop. She was my idol and I loved her to bits, but soft spoken, kindly and even-tempered she was not.

Rile my mother and you unleashed a screaming beast, spouting salty tears, great roars of opprobrium and quite a few sharp slaps around the leg. I will never forget her whacking me up the stairs to get me to stay in bed at night when I was about six, or indeed the many times she went for me as a teenager during our particularly vicious fights.

Not to say I didn't deserve it as a teenager as I was vile. And not really to complain about my treatment, after all parenting methods have changed over the years and what was OK in the 70s is reviled now, with mixed results in terms of children's behaviour.

What really gets me is that my mum seems to be suffering from selective memory disorder, and while she seems shocked by my decibel heavy parenting of four small boys, she recalls nothing of her own methods when bringing up just one little girl. Apparently in her mind she was always reasonable, reasoned and above all quiet, while I am wild, shouty and unreasonable with my children.

Perhaps her criticisms of me are bang on, I don't doubt that often my boys bring out the worst in me, but I do dispute her claim that she was any better when coping with a recalcitrant child.

Perhaps that's what age and becoming a grandma, who can after all hand those unruly children back at the end of her allotted time with them, does for you. No doubt I will be slipping on the rose-tinted specs when I look back to my own days as a mum from the great distance of grandmothering and, as I watch my daughters-in-law scream their way through the preschool years, I will cover my ears and comfort myself by imagining I did a much better job.


  1. How frustrating for you. That really is selective memory. I love the term "forgettery', by the way.

    Did you really buy a new car every week?

  2. My dad used to go to a market in a nearby town, and while he was working my mum and I used to walk to the shopping centre and she would buy me a little toy car. I had a massive collection, but then we had a fire and the whole lot melted. I have never quite got over their loss.

  3. I also love the idea of a forgettery.

    I've found that leaving my mini men in the company of my mother, on her own, for a few hours swiftly reduces her to the odd shout, which I can store away for future evidence if needed.