This morning my daughter and I made sugar cookies. Later, I mentioned it to my dear friend and she remarked encouragingly that I had “made a great memory” for her. I’d been reflecting on memories already so her comment sent me to my computer.
I hear parents say all the time that they want to create great memories for their children, or some variation of that sentiment. It makes sense. We all want to give our kids rich experiences and we want them to remember good times. For a lot of people, that’s just an expression, but I think some folks can get pretty caught up in this idea that they have to go out of their way to plan experiences for kids and perhaps even feel guilty if they haven’t done “enough.” I’m not justifying bad parenting. I also know there are many other reasons to give children varied, great experiences and I’m not addressing those. I’m talking to the parents who are feeling lousy because they can’t afford that trip to Disney, didn’t sign the kids up for some activity or don’t quite have the energy for a five-course breakfast on Christmas morning. Take heart; we have little control over memories, anyway.
As the idea for this post marinated, I tried to come up with the things that made the biggest impression on me from childhood. It was interesting to see what surfaced. Of course I remember some things that my parents planned or traditions we observed. But memories are strange things. They’re dreamlike, only not quite. They seem to float around in my mind and yet can be so weighty. I have a hard time coming up with other adjectives to describe them, even after an embarrassingly long time with the thesaurus. Why do we remember some things and not others? We can’t choose the things that will loom large in our kids’ memories or how they’ll remember them.
I remember looking out of the car window on a dark, quiet moment one Christmas Eve at glowing luminarias.
I remember sitting on our back patio on a hot, sunny day with my much older siblings while they listened to U2 and Midnight Oil.
I remember shooting rubber bands across the street with my friends in a brutal war against the neighborhood boys.
I remember walks with my Dad, discovering rocks and having quiet talks and special just-me-and-mom breakfasts with hot chocolate and whipped cream.
These and scores of other small memories and a few big ones collectively help me frame my past. Often, they are not so much about any particular experience, but about the feeling that experience evoked: Profound, grown up, part of something, loved.
In our home I want to focus on positivity; to give my girls a peaceful and happy space in which to make their own memories (hmm… might need to work on my irritability). I hope that their collective memories will point to a childhood that felt secure and full of love. It’s still one of our family goals to get out and do fun things more often but experience tells me that I can’t control what they’ll remember, so I’m not going to waste time fretting over it. I figure the best way to make good memories is to live in the moment.