Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Do You Remember When....?"

So, I love playing the game "Do You Remember When....?" with my daughters.

For instance, one of my favorites is to ask Leslie, "Do you remember when Sara tried to strangle you on the porch?" "OMG, Mom, do you HAVE to???" (she really loves hearing it, though).
"Of course I do," I say.

I then start retelling the story of the time I was sitting peacefully in the living room when Leslie (age 8 or 9) comes screaming and crying through the front door.

"What on earth???" I question her.
"Sara tried to STRANGLE me!!"
"Oh, come on Leslie, STRANGLE you??"
"I'm sure she didn't mean to REALLY strangle you, did she?"

So, I call Sara into the house.

"Sara, Leslie said that you tried to strangle her. Is this true?"
"What on earth for???"
"She made me mad."
"But you put your hands around her throat and actually tried to strangle her??"
"I already told you, yes. How many times are you going to ask me?"

Another favorite is one I tell my oldest daughter, Kat.

"So, do you remember when, any time you would do something great, you used to love for me to sing the 'I'm Proud of You' song from Mr. Rogers? "I'm proud of you, I'm proud of you, I hope that you are proud of you, too!"
"Oh, God, Mom. That was ages ago!"
"Then why, at age 29, do you still want me to sing it to you when you've done something great???"
"I don't know," she mumbles sheepishly. "I guess I still like it?"
"Want me to sing it to you now?"
"Would you?"

Or this one. Kat had just gotten her drivers permit and was driving to school with me in the front seat. She had done a great job. So, she turns into the school parking lot, totally confident of the fabulous job she has done, and starts waving at all her friends......and forgot all about the fact that she was driving. She consequently side-swiped a brand new Lincoln Town Car.

The guy in the car JUMPS out of the car, and starts YELLING: "What's the matter with you!! Are you blind??? This is a brand new car!! You've ruined it!!"

Well, that ticked me off, so I got out of our car, walked over to him and asked, "Why are you in this parking lot?"
"Why do you think I'm in this parking lot? I have a kid in this school!"
"And does your kid have a driver's license??"
"Yes, so what?"
"Well, it could just as easily have been YOUR kid who side-swiped me as my kid side-swiping you. So chill out, or take a powder. I have insurance."

All of us have so many of these stories with our kids. And they NEVER tire of hearing them. These stories anchor them, give them their foundation of belongness to family, validate that they are seen, loved, important, remembered. They teach them that they matter--that they have made an impact on the world, on their parents and families.

SO MANY of the teens at Promise House have NO ONE to tell them "Do you remember?" stories. They've either been shuttled around the foster care system for years, or their parents were too abusive or drug addicted to care about family stories, or they've been on the streets with no parents. Their "Do you remember?" stories are stories they want to forget--stories of abuse, of transience, of incarceration, of lonliness, hurt, heartache.

People say you can't miss what you never had, but I don't believe that. These kids know what they are missing, what they have missed. And no matter how old they are, they long for family and connection.....for someone to tell them THEIR stories.

I think that's why so many stay in touch with us. We are their story tellers--we remember them--we love them--and they matter.

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