Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rugrat remembrances

I'm sitting in the dark in my sister's living room. It took me several hours to get my baby niece to sleep. My friend Diana has just left, but it took our combined strength for much of the time she was here to get this little girl to take the nap she clearly needed (and wanted, even if she said "no" every time I asked her if she wanted one).

[And within the time I started writing this blog, my niece woke up and started freaking out because she wasn't well rested enough, but now that I've relaxed her I might continue writing.]

Sometimes I wonder how much she's going to remember, if anything, of a day like today. Particularly of traumatic experiences like when she woke up just now, had a meltdown and had to be put back into a state of calm by a repeat viewing of The Little Mermaid (third time today; she keeps asking to watch "Ariel" and I oblige because nothing else seems to arrest her attention in the same way).

There's so much that gets lost when you're young and growing up. The attention span is so minimal, that it's a wonder we ever retain any memories from before we can form full sentences.

But it's the fact that my niece can speak in any sentences at all that makes me believe that somewhere inside her, everything I do is being stored away as a memory. It's an exciting concept, but it scares me too. I don't want her to remember me bringing her back to her bedroom just now in her fit of exhaustion. She'll hate me. She'll remember I made her cry. I never want to make her cry.

When I look back on my childhood existence, it's hard to clarify anything. According to memories as a child, everything is relatively fuzzy. Even at nine years old, we're all still trying to make connections just as infants do. They might be more sophisticated, but they still involve some level of misunderstanding.

It's an amazing thought to think that all the confusion and all the mistakes can lead to the kind of self-awareness that most people have in their adult years.

Often I still consider myself among the children. I'm capable of throwing fits, of asking people for help when I inevitably don't know how to do anything. Am I still in that mode of learning? In that period of absorbing rather than knowing already? 

We limit these traits to our perceptions of the minds of children. But we're all learning much in this way. We memorize, we apply and we allow information to become part of our natural repertoire. It may not be so simple as my niece's memorization of the names of the characters in The Little Mermaid, but it's the same concept put to a different use.

So where can we draw the line of comprehensibility? Does my niece really understand everything I'm doing with her? Even the dumb stuff?

When I was in elementary school, I remember thinking my sister owned the Spice Girls CD. Years later when I breached the subject with her, I found out it was actually me to whom the Spice Girls CD belonged. I was projecting the interest onto her, but only out of childhood misconception.

Does this mean my niece has the power to displace her discomfort onto me? Will she think I caused her lack of sleep by being the person taking care of her when she had trouble falling asleep?

[Apologies for a second interlude taken just now. I fell asleep sitting up for about 15 seconds. I am all right now, fully functional and watching The Little Mermaid again.]

Maybe some of our greatest misconceptions in life are a result of this kind of belief system. It's like not getting the full facts when formulating an opinion when you're older, except slightly less complex and even more fundamental. And it shapes the way you live your life sometimes.

In less than a couple of hours I'll be heading out of my sister's house and even if my niece doesn't remember all the minutia of our day together - and obviously she won't at less than two years old - I hope that I can walk away having left her with some positivity towards me.

Because even after spending hours trying to put her to sleep and feed her meals when she doesn't want anything to do with what I'm offering her, I still think back on the entire experience as positive.

This little rugrat is just too much fun. I hope she can think of her auntie that way too.

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