Why Short-term Memory Loss May Help You Be A Better Dad

I’ve told my son countless times when he’s asked me where something is that he is going to have to learn to keep track of his own stuff, and that I have a hard enough time keeping track of where my belongings are.

And I’m not just making it up to get out of helping him find what he’s looking for. I was the kid–and still am that grownup–who will visit your house and with almost a certainty leave with you something I’ve brought. I don’t know what it is, but short-term memory has never been a strong suite, although I do believe it can get better by practicing presence.

My forgetfulness has also been something I’ve accepted as an adult, and I no longer beat myself up about it. In fact, I think it’s almost a good thing when it comes to being a parent.

Here are five reasons why a short-term memory will help you be a better dad:

  1. Your child needs to keep track of their own things. Yes, it sucks when the expensive pair of gloves you bought are lost to the vapor of elementary school. Don’t ride her for it, but also don’t buy her a replacement pair right away. She needs to learn that the items she owns are her responsibility to keep track of.
  2. Siblings can learn to debate. Bath night for my two-year old and six-year old has become a “who’s first” game. They like to try keep track on who went first last time. And try they must, because they’re not going to be able to count on their dad to keep track of that for them. Dad doesn’t need to keep track of who did what first for these kids of situation, for bath or whatever the argument.
  3. Who did what is forgotten. True forgiveness comes when you can’t remember what your child did. Maybe they were written up at school. Maybe they hit their sibling. Maybe they yelled at you. But if you can learn to forget these things and see your child as a growing, maturing being–inside and out–then you can parent from a less-biased perspective.
  4. Your child learns honesty. “I didn’t have a piece of candy last night.” Healthy snacks are often a debate at our house, and my six-year old especially likes to suggest candy as a bed-time snack. Once in a while we give in, but I can’t often keep track of what he’s eaten this week or even last night. It’s on his honor to decide what’s healthy.
  5. Reading the same books over and over are less mundane. Okay, my short-term memory isn’t to the point of dementia-educing repetition, but for some reason, I don’t mind re-reading children’s books, especially for the toddler who requests the same library book every night (thankfully, there is a due date for these.) Reread these books in different voices or have different discussions about what’s happening also helps me experience the book differently.

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