Our Kids Won't Remember Any of This
Does the time before our child's first memory matter?
Since my daughter, Annie, was born, my wife and I have dedicated our lives to her. We’ve leapt up in the middle of the night to soothe her after a bad dream, spent hours by her side playing with her beloved Play Doh, and even taken her to Disneyland a number of times. All of this effort has made me feel like a pretty great parent, but then something dawned on me the other day: my first memory wasn’t until I was nearly four, so there’s a good chance that Annie won’t remember any of what we’ve done for her!
My first memory may have been when I was nearly four, but that doesn’t mean my parents didn’t do a lot of great things for me in the years leading up to it—they did. I just don’t remember those things. This frustrates my parents, who often quiz me about it.
“Do you remember when we went to France?”
“But we stood under the Eiffel Tower! To a little kid it must have seemed gigantic! You must remember that!
“Well, how about how I taught you the alphabet every night after work? We practiced over and over and over until you finally had it down cold!”
“I didn’t learn it at preschool?”
“No! You learned it from me! You don’t remember? A, B, C -”
“I don’t remember. Sorry.”
The only evidence my parents have of all those great times are some faded Polaroids in a drawer. I’ll look at the ones from our trip to the Eiffel Tower and see that we were indeed there, but not feel much.
Of course, one way my wife and I have it better than our parents is that we can document our families’ experiences to a much greater extent. We have digital photos, high definition video, blogs, and so much more. Still, as amazing as all that is, it’s no replacement for actual memory, and that’s why I worry. Will Annie really not remember any of this? And if she doesn’t, was there a point to any of it? Or could I have just laid on the couch these last few years without her knowing any different when she’s an adult?
This is a complex question, but I think that what we do in these formative years does matter. Our kids may not remember any of it, but that doesn’t mean we’re not shaping them. These early experiences are like the roots of a tree under the ground. They may not be visible to the naked eye, but they have a whole lot to do with how strong and healthy the rest of the tree is. Still, I would like credit for all of the Disneyland trips. Annie, if you’re reading this in the future, know you were one lucky kid!
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