Every Sunday in the New York Times Sunday Styles section is a regular column titled, “Modern Love.” Often this details the trials and tribulations of adult relationships today and usually ends with some profound revelation that has changed the life of the author. Why I read this every week is beyond me, especially when I find them to be so self-serving and boring most of the time.
Sometimes, though, like this week, the focus is on relationships between parents and children. These pieces always get to me and often cause me to tear up. Sunday’s piece was about a man who recalls a tense relationship with his father and yet wonders at the easy relationship his father has with his son, currently 3 years old. After learning that he too had had a playful time with his father when he himself was that age, he muses about the fun he currently has with his son.
I savor those moments, but worry now that Seth will scarcely remember them. Perhaps memories of early years were never really meant for sons, for whom growing up requires a kind of forgetting. Perhaps they are really for fathers, to wrap ourselves in when our sons begin that long, slow fade into adulthood.
This hit me pretty hard. I mostly remember a lot of screaming fights with my parents growing up, battles over independence and friends and god only knows everything else. I can’t really say that I have a lot of happy memories of growing up, though pictures tell a different story.
I see the same strong-willed tendencies in the boy, and am already bracing myself for a difficult adolescence. It scares me to think that all the fun, joyous memories we are creating now will evaporate in his consciousness and he, too, will grow up with memories only of struggles at home and not love. I suppose this is what is meant in that childhood is for parents, as a sort of buffer zone of memory to protect us from the inevitable door-slamming and verbal salvos that await as children navigate the tricky chrysalis of growing up and emerge (hopefully) to find their way back home.