I don’t think I’ll ever understand it. My 9-year old can clearly recall what happened 7 years ago in startling detail, from the clothes we were wearing to the shows she watched on television. She can remember every single one of her birthdays, the names of people she met once 5 years ago, and when I said that swear word when I hit my thumb with the hammer 6 years ago. But if I ask her what happened 5 minutes ago she’s completely clueless.
It drives me crazy, and I’ve been trying to do these techniques with her that are supposed to help out short-term memory, but nothing’s worked to this point. Today just added to it…
Me: Lexi, let’s get your homework out and get started.
Lexi: Well, I knoooow I put my folders in my bookbag.
Me: So get them out and let’s move along.
Lexi: Well, I knooooow I put my folders in my bookbag but they’re not there now.
Me: What do you mean? If you know you put them in there then they should be there now, right?
Lexi: But they’re not there.
Me: So you didn’t put them in your bookbag.
Lexi: But I know I did!
Me: Okay, so you “know” you put them in there, but they’re not there now, so you were mistaken, right?
Lexi: I guess so, but I don’t know what happened.
Me: I know what happened. You forgot to put them in there. You were probably distracted.
Lexi: I really thought I put them in there.
Me: Where was the last place you saw them?
Lexi: Well… I know they were on my desk before I put my chair up.
Me: So they’re probably still sitting there right now.
Lexi: But I know I put them in my bookbag.
Me: Okay, we’re done with that. They’re not there, so you didn’t put them there. They must still be on your desk at school.
Lexi: So what are we going to do?
Me: I’m going to take you back to school and you’re going to hope someone’s there who can let us back into your classroom to get your folders and planner.
Lexi: I hope somebody’s there to let us in.
Me: And you’re going to lose screen time for tonight because you haven’t taken care of your responsibility.
Me: You’re 9 years old now, Lexi. At some point you have to learn some memory skills. If you need your homework at home, then you have to make sure you put it in your bookbag.
Lexi: But I was sure it was in my bookbag.
Me [after taking a long breath]: It’s called double checking. Memory is like riding a bike, Lex. Once you learn how to make it go you can’t unlearn it. But you have to learn how to do it first, and the more you complain about not being able to remember the more you won’t be able to remember. I know you can do it.
Lexi: How do you know I can do it?
Me: Because you’re smart, Lexi. I’ve seen you put your mind to something and you get it done. You just need a little help with this one.
Lexi: Uh, can we go to school already, though? You’ve been talking for FOREVER and the room’s probably not open now.
Me: It won’t be my fault if we get there and the room’s not open. This is the second time you’ve forgotten and I’m taking you back for what you’ve forgotten. It won’t happen again.
Lexi: But what if I forget again?
Me: Then you’ll just lose your playtime the next day for not getting your homework done. Maybe that will be what it takes to help your memory.
Lexi: Yeah, I’ll remember then. You know, if I lose my playtime. I love playtime!
Me: And I love you.
Lexi: Daaaaaaad. Let’s go!