As I stumble through the first handful of years of my kid’s childhood, I’m often reminded of my own. My best childhood memories were when I was quite young, probably between the ages of 5 and 7 years old. My memories of that time are filled with track homes, neighborhood children playing until the streetlights came on, and banana-seat bicycles with decorated spokes and playing cards making a shuffling sound as I chased my older sister down the sidewalk.
They’re filled with road trips to the Grand Canyon, the smell of my dad when he came home from work, and my mom’s home cooking as she hosted dinner parties for friends. That was a truly happy time in my life, and although I experienced many happy moments thereafter, they are harder to remember because I can also remember the hard times so well.
When I look back on my own childhood, I’m fascinated by what I remember and what I don’t. Are periods of my childhood hazy because they were traumatic? Maybe not; perhaps there’s no rhyme or reason to it at all. We’ve all gone through unique circumstances that lead us to try things differently for our own children, but can we truly avoid any and all traumatic circumstances? Of course not, but most of us never stop trying.
I want my kids to remember it all. I want them to have a vivid memory of what stability looks like, what love feels like, what home smells like, and what satisfaction and disappointment taste like. I want to give them memories that they can’t forget, that they won’t want to forget, both to learn from and to grow from.
Here’s what I want my kids to remember about their childhood …
Remember me as I am, now. Remember the mother that ran around with you, chasing you through fields of grass and waiting for you around every corner. Remember me as your class volunteer and biggest cheering section at your soccer games. Remember me the way I am now because you’ll need me less as time goes on, but those memories will allow me to always be with you.
Remember your close relationship with your sibling. Remember that the bond between you can’t be broken. Remember that you were each other’s first best friend, first teammate, and first fist fight. Remember that no matter what or who comes in and out of your lives, no one will ever share your unique experience of childhood like you do. Remember to always refer to the memories. They are what will make forgiving so easy when doing so feels so hard.
Remember your summer days. Remember the haze of your summers drenched in sunscreen and sun kisses. The smell of the chlorine on your skin and the countless games of Marco Polo you played in the pool. Remember that feeling of freedom and joy, and refer to it when you feel stagnant and overwhelmed by the pressures of life. Remember its importance, and try to find it in everything you do.
Remember the profound presence of your family. Remember that you belong somewhere. No matter where you were or what you were doing, your family was always there to listen to you and support you. Remember the talks on the curb with your cousin. Remember the 20 questions I answered for you every day while you were in grade school. Remember that no one was ever too busy for you. You were never alone in this world and never will be. If you ever feel like you don’t belong, don’t fit in, or are misunderstood, know that your family is always here to remind you. You fit in right here and are more understood than you’ll ever know. Keep us present in your heart at all times.
Remember the mistakes you made. Whether you hit your brother without cause, got caught in a lie, or used all my lipstick as army paint, valuable lessons reside in every mistake. The trial and error of childhood is what determines your level of judgment. No one is perfect, and mistakes are OK. As long as you learn the lessons and apply them, it’ll all be OK. Use those memories and remember those lessons because you’ll need them in the bigger scheme of life. It won’t always be fair, or fun, but it will always be a learning opportunity.
Remember the magic. Keep your imagination wild. Remember the games of cops and robbers you played with your brother. Remember waiting for Santa Claus all night until you couldn’t keep your eyes open. Remember all the things you wanted to be in your wildest dreams. Remember that magic. Remember that no dream is too big. And remember that magic still lives inside you.
Remember how much I love you. You’ll likely never know the love I have for you until you’re blessed enough to be a parent yourself. But please, remember the love. Remember the hugs, the snuggles, the endless kisses, the long talks about dinosaurs and zombies. Remember the comfort when you cried your eyes out on my chest. Remember the promises I kept. Remember me tucking you into bed and reading together as you became sleepy. Remember the “I love you” I whispered in your ear every night. Remember how deep our love runs.
Remember your childhood. You’ll never get it back. You may not want parts of it back. But you’ll miss the ease, the presence of your family together, and the fulfillment it gave you. To remember it is to have it, always. So if you ever feel lost, can’t remember, and need me to tell you a story, know that I’m here. I will never, ever forget.