The past often haunts my mothering.
Past moments and opportunities lost.
But sometimes the past isn’t all bad. In fact, it can be the very thing God used to inspire us to love well and to heal our wounds.
I learned this lesson during the tween years. At our house, those years packed quite a punch.
We all struggled to figure out how to function as a family in this alien, adolescent twilight zone. None of the manuals had prepared us for this strange new world.
I loved my daughter. I just didn’t quite recognize her.
And she probably wondered who the raving lunatic was who was serving her breakfast every morning.
Maybe we all just needed a distraction or a change of scenery. Perhaps we had all lost our minds (quite likely). Whatever the reason, we embarked on a summer cross-country road trip. We visited the new Minnesota Twins stadium and hit the roller coasters at an amusement park along the way. In Chicago, we ate deep-dish pizza, paid money to be insulted at Ed Debevic’s and spent the afternoon at Wrigley Field.
After all the baseball, Molly and I figured we’d earned a day on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile — a.k.a. shopping nirvana. After a few shops, the boys were thinking our idea wasn’t so magnificent, so we agreed to split up and meet later that afternoon.
As we walked, Molly and I were enjoying each other’s company. After a long, dark deep freeze, it felt like the ice between us was beginning to thaw.
Suddenly, Molly stopped and shouted, “Hey, Mom, look! We’ve got to stop here!”
I expected to see the world’s largest American Eagle store. Or, a Forever 21 store that seemed to go on forever.
Instead, I looked up to see … The American Girl Store?!
As we walked in, we took a step back in time. Not just to another time in American History. But to another time in our history. Back to when things were less complicated, more carefree.
We ran through the ginormous store like two excited little girls. Looking at each display case. Chattering about old memories:
Molly: Remember when Molly (the doll) broke her arm and you told me you’d send her to the hospital, but you never did?
Me: Yes, Molly. Thanks for reminding me of that mothering fail.
Molly: It’s okay, Mom. I’m over it.
We both laughed. Over the next hour, we talked about the dolls she had liked the best and the silly storylines she created for them.
Suddenly, she got serious and said, “I miss that time. Everything was so much simpler back then. Sometimes, I wish I could just go back to playing with dolls.”
Sigh. Yeah, me, too.
We can’t really go back. And it wouldn’t be healthy to try to keep our kids young emotionally, as they grow older physically.
But sometimes, going back can help us move forward. After a difficult patch in our relationship, a trip to the past was a sweet and welcome reminder of how it used to be. When time together was easy. Old memories reminded us of our history together — the experiences that only we shared. How we knew each other in ways that no one else did.
During the rocky times, I also took trips to the past, remembering my sweet child of yesterday and our warm relationship. I went there again and again. It inspired me to love her well even as I wondered if anything would ever be right between us again. God would use those memories and the power of the Holy Spirit to help me show a “love that keeps no record of being wronged … that never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Cor. 13: 5, 7)
Real love forgets offense, but remembers the good stuff.
That kind of trip to the past can give us hope for the future.