Why We Need to Occasionally Ditch Rose-Colored Glasses

The other day I was talking to a young woman who was pregnant and told her, in a voice I barely recognized as my own, that “Labor is amazing!”

I realized that I was experiencing the rose-colored glasses syndrome. These are the memories that we share with the next generation, formed by a brain that is actually hardwired to be positive. Research shows that our brains actually color memories as “happy” to keep us thriving.

We know rose-colored glasses are on when we say things like the following:

  • Summers were perfect when I was a kid. Blue skies, lemonade stands, and roller skates. It was one idyllic day after another.
  • Prom was the greatest experience of my life. I dressed up, went to dinner, and danced all night long. It was a dream.
  • Oh, I remember my first job when I had to put finger-nail polish on my pantyhose to cover runs because I couldn’t afford another pair. It was exciting!
  • Labor is the MOST amazing experience. The pain isn’t fun, but then you get this beautiful baby out of it.

I believe that sometimes we need to splash a little reality on our happy memories so that we don’t totally depress the person who is currently experiencing what we’re remembering.

We need to wipe off our lenses and offer up a little honesty, such as:

  • When I was a kid, the first day of summer was perfect. Mothers stayed home and we drank lemonade. After that, we had neighbor kids babysit us who talked on the phone and tried to pretend we didn’t exist. We laid in the grass staring at the sky because we were bored out of our minds. We roller-skated until somebody fell and ended up with gravel embedded in their knees.
  • Prom was a huge disappointment. The guy I wanted to ask me to prom ended up asking a cheerleader, and I called an old boyfriend who said “yes” only because he wanted to make another girl jealous. During prom, we danced and sweated until my previously beautiful dress was soaked and my feet were filthy. Then the kid with no drinking history guzzled three cups of purple passion and threw up on me.
  • My first job was exciting until I realized I had to buy about five pairs of pantyhose a week that I couldn’t afford, and I only had red fingernail polish to stop the run which was visible even with my suit on. I sat down quickly at my desk to hide the run, at which point the fingernail polish ripped the skin off of my knee and the run took off like crazy down my leg.
  • Labor is not nearly as wonderful as everybody thinks. For those of you who have not had a baby, you are not missing out on the greatest life experience of all time. Instead, you’re missing out on pushing something much too large out of something much too tender who might someday tell you that you’re an idiot.

I remember people telling me how excited I should be about my first apartment and my first job and my first child. Yes, those times were exciting. But they were also terrifying.

I ate popcorn for dinner for two years and put up with a man in the next apartment who knocked his wife out of her walker every night at 6:30 p.m. when he got really drunk.

When my kids were toddlers, I lived in a house where post-its weren’t necessary because my house was so sticky.

And while the result of labor was amazing, by the time my son was born all I wanted was Coke, mascara, and Demerol.

Maybe, for the next generation, we should just show a little empathy and wipe the rose-color off our lenses — if only for a moment.