Author: Chian Kee | Date: 1 May 2014 | Please Comment!

I have an excellent memory.

The only problem is, I have a terrible memory – although seem to recall that I might have told you otherwise a while back.

My my mind has an extraordinary ability to retain facts of varying utility. I can recite the first few pages of my favourite story book from when I was a baby:

Here are the cops of London Town
Hard working, brave and true
They drink their tea
Stay up til three
And take good care of you

Here are the robbers of London Town
With crowbars and skeleton keys
They prowl and creep 
While you’re asleep
And take whatever they please

On reflection, this might go some way in explaining the unreasonable expectations I have of the work ethic and antioxidant levels of the public service.

On the other hand, I often have difficulty remembering what I did yesterday, or what I’m going to do tomorrow, or what I did yesterday.  I’m convinced, however, that there are many experiences, tidbits and nuggets of useless trivia that, whilst evading my memory, are nevertheless permanently lodged in my brain.

Many parents recall that they can’t really remember any aspect of their lives before the age of 2 or 3 and so they assume that their own children below that age are living in a state of rolling amnesia, or at least that their internal browser cache will be cleared around the time they’re toilet trained.  I’m often tempted to talk about my son as though he’s not there, or to let slip some sarcastic remark or joke at his expense in the knowledge that he probably won’t remember it when the time comes for him to pick my nursing home.  Instead, however, I think back to one of my earliest memories, which is really just a memory of an out-of-context thought.  Some time in the dim recesses of my long term memory, I remember thinking “I think these adults don’t realise that I understand what they’re talking about.”

With that in mind, whenever Winston looks at me with a blank, drooly stare, I make a conscious decision to speak only blessings and not curses.  I restrain my self from quipping “Well that was dumb” or “You idiot don’t eat that”, because I want him to associate making and learning from mistakes with bravery, not ineptitude.  I force myself never to say the words “I can’t wait until you can …” because it belittles the preciousness of the current stage of development that he’s experiencing right now – one that I will be nostalgically wishing back once it’s gone.  I assume, even against my own skeptical intuitions, that every word of encouragement, every statement of virtue and every affirmation of worth is permanently and positively building him up into a better future-person.

So if you ever find me speaking to an infant, and seeming to be lost for words, it’s probably because I’m mentally discarding all of the things I was about to say – things that have built up in my repertoire of repartee over the years – and instead trying to fill his mind with something better than myself.

Hopefully by the time he can remember what I’m telling him, he’ll already understand the importance of compassion, hard work and regular fluid intake.

Tree of Knowledge


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