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Speak, Memory!

February 18th, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized

The danger signs probably started appearing long ago, but I missed them until yesterday morning. That was when, in what is becoming an increasingly contentious process, I tried to get Sasha dressed for preschool. The kid, so normally fond of her velcro sneakers, refused to let me put them on, and kicked and screamed so much that, finally, I had to give her a Time Out. I carried her to her room—one shoe on, one shoe off—put her in her red chair facing the crib, and closed the door while she cried.

In the meantime, Jean and I got ourselves ready to go, and fretted about this punishment: Was it meted out too easily? Would it even work?

It turns out it worked—too well. When I fetched Sasha from her room a few minutes later, she was sweet, apologetic, and compliant—the perfect adorable toddler. As I led her down the hallway, she stuck her stockinged foot in the air and said, “I forget my shoe! I forget my shoe!”

This, my friends, was the danger sign. Before, Sasha was distractable. If she was upset about something—our refusal to let her watch “Yo Gabba Gabba” till after bathtime, say—we could always point her attention in another direction, and the previous object of her fixation would disappear.

No longer. Sasha remembers! Why, this very morning I came up against the same reluctance to get dressed for school. This time I tried a different tack: bribery. If Sasha got dressed, I told her, Daddy would give her a gummy (a chewable vitamin that Sasha considers to be candy, which is why Jean and I don’t want to indulge her too often). She agreed, and I figured that after we’d gone through the long process of assembling an outfit, the gummy would have been forgotten. No such luck. As soon as she was dressed, Sasha took my hand and declared, “Let’s go get gummy!”

I know I should be pleased with the kid’s newfound ability to remember and concentrate. Memory, after all, is the basis of self. And it is fascinating to watch Sasha transition from feral toddler to almost-personhood.

But instead I’m anxious. If she’s really forming memories now, then what do we need to beware of? What capricious actions, which once we could get away with, do we now have to curtail? And, most important of all, does this mean I have to start wearing pants around the house?

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