My son, Gabriel, has an interesting memory. He has some challenges with short-term memory. What kid doesn’t, right? Classic example: “Didn’t I just tell you a minute ago to clean your room?” “Oh, I forgot, mom.” But I’m seeing more and more that Gabriel’s trouble with short-term memory goes beyond a lack of desire to do chores. The challenge for me in homeschooling is to find ways to help him retain what goes into his short-term memory long enough to use it.
His long-term memory, on the other hand, is quite fascinating. He recalls events in the past to the exact detail that even I have trouble remembering. However, for Gabriel, his imagination is so active that when he remembers an event, it’s as if he is reliving it at that very moment. The same emotions from the past will overcome him to the same degree as the original experience. This is true for both happy and sad memories. The latter is what worries this already anxious mother.
The other day, he said to me with tears welling up in his eyes, “Mommy, when I was a little boy, I was in the room with the teacher and you and Daddy went outside and closed the door. Why did you leave me?” My mind had to go on fast rewind to figure out what he was talking about, and then, I remembered. When he was 4 years old, we would take him to a local elementary school to see Mrs. M, the speech therapist. She allowed us to stay in the room to observe. There was one time when Gabriel refused to participate and kept calling out to us to get him out of there. Mrs. M asked us to step out of the room, so that she would be able to calm him down without the distraction of our presence. Eventually, he calmed down and was able to resume the session, but that event was so significant for him that he filed it away in his long-term memory. And now, almost 4 years later, he pulled it out again.
I tried to comfort him by telling him that we didn’t leave him that day, that we were just outside the door. I tried to tell him that was in the past and encouraged him to move forward. I tried to assure him that we love him and would never abandon him. At 4 years old, what kind of thoughts and emotions went through his mind and heart, that only now he is able to express in words? One of my concerns is that for Gabriel, such sad memories will not fade over time. It’s hard enough for us, as adults, to process some of the difficult things that happen to us? What more for a young boy?
I sought The Lord for comfort. I asked God to free my son from the anxieties of yesterday and before. I begged Him to bring Gabriel the blessed hope of His promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
The past can plague us in the present. It can have the power to paralyze us from living now and forging ahead to the future. Even in my most despondent state, I have done what Gabriel does … recalling and reliving things in the past that should’ve been left alone. Only Christ can deliver me from such bondage. Only Christ can redeem my child from the hold of the past and enable him to move forward.
“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
(Photo credit: Bala Sivakumar)