My daughter sings. A lot. She’ll repeat simple phrases that explain the world: about the color of her crayons, a new experience, or how she feels about a person. She’ll do all this without thought—and without realization that someone might hear her.

She will also use song to narrate memorable or—more often—traumatic moments in her life. My favorite example of this is a recent visit to the doctor. She handled the vaccination needles just fine, and was immediately chatty with the doctor herself. Then we went to collect the urine sample and I forgot to let her turn on the light.

Rashomon but with toddlers would be a nightmare

She eventually calmed down, used the potty, and turned the light off-and-on-and-off. Then we went downstairs, got in the car, and had a snack. And then she sang her song. I didn’t really pay attention until I heard my name: “Daddy was so mean, he wouldn’t let me turn on the light/ He yelled at me and made me cry…”

It went on for another ten minutes, covering all the events of the day.

I replayed the visit in my mind. I knew that I had remained calm, reasonable; I gave her space, offered solutions. But still, she had her version, and in song no less. Who would you believe?

It didn’t matter if it were true—it was how she experienced it, and now how she remembered it. Memories are slippery and highly dependent on our emotional state at the time. All of us are subject to the same morphing of events to fit our internal narrative as time goes by; maybe not as quickly as the walk from the doctor to the car, but quickly enough. It’s something I try to keep in mind when relitigating old events or passing judgment on someone I disagree with. Everyone sees the world differently.

Luckily I’m no longer the villain in her songs. She’s forgotten the “Light Switch” and moved on to singing “A Thousand Pies” from Octonauts.