I have a very fuzzy memory from my childhood of my Dad carrying me upstairs to bed. It was the night before my third birthday and I could feel butterflies in my tummy with excitement. I can remember him walking me up the stairs slowly, then along the corridor and into my bedroom. I remember him telling me that if I went to sleep, the morning would come quicker. I remember reaching out for my teddy bear and closing my eyes – and I remember feeling his goodnight kiss. It’s a fleeting memory and certainly not a vivid one, but it’s a memory nonetheless.
This is the earliest memory I have and I have thought back to that night often since becoming a mother.
Because it reminds me that up to this point, my boys won’t remember a single thing we have done.
Nothing. Zilch. Nada.
Stanley won’t remember the time we took him to Thailand and he fed elephants bananas. He won’t remember the way he squealed with excitement when the trunk sucked up the fruit and curled it into the animal’s mouth. He won’t remember the day he went to visit his newborn brother in the hospital, totally ignoring him in favour of a plate of chips, but sneakily stealing a glance when he thought no one was looking. He won’t remember his second birthday cake, or chasing bubbles on the lawn on summer days, or stirring pancake mixture with me in his pyjamas early on Saturday mornings. He won’t remember the bedtime cuddles or the goodnight kisses, the morning cartoons or the scooter rides to nursery.
Wilfred won’t remember waking up to a hard frost in December, staring confused at the glistening white grass as he pressed his nose against the cold window and jumped backwards with the shock. He won’t remember meeting my eyes as a newborn as he fed, going for walks in the sunshine and cooing as he spots boats, dancing with me in the living room while no one was watching, or being thrown into the air by his Daddy as he threw his head back and howled with laughter.
Neither of them will remember any of this.
I’ve been busy creating memories that won’t be memories at all.
My friend Aimee, who is a blogger at Raising Freddie and a qualified Early Years Professional (the owner of soon-to-be-opened Paddington Nursery, no less), tells me that this memory loss is called ‘child amnesia’. She continues: “Studies have shown that we do not remember much before we are two and even then many of us have no recollection of much before we are six.”
Well that’s depressing, isn’t it?
But Aimee continues: “It is still so important for little ones to have a range of experiences before they can form lasting memories. No your child won’t remember that expensive day out when he was one, however the positive, nurturing atmosphere that you provided will impact hugely on their emotional wellbeing as they grow up. Even babies can record their memories through love, smells, taste, song, and friends. If you sing your child their favourite nursery rhyme do they recall it? Of course they do. Children remember things they enjoy, like mummy and daddy, their favourite food, and familiar sights. This is because it interests them. If we expose our children to different interests and experiences throughout their early life, these will inevitably impact on their adult life. Ensuring your child has a loving environment to be brought up in from a young age is the key to (hopefully) a positive adulthood.”
Talking to Aimee has made me feel a lot better about memories – or, as it turns out, the lack of them. Everything we have done so far will shape them as little people as they grow up.
And one day in the future, maybe my grown-up boys will be thinking back to their earliest memories, just as I have done. And when they do, the fuzzy memories of warm hugs, bedtime kisses, and exciting adventures will feel totally familiar. Because it’s what we always did and what we always continued to do. It was worth every second making sure they remembered that. Even before they could remember at all.
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