Do you feel pressured to create the “perfect childhood”? Don’t add unnecessary stress—these are the things your kids will remember about you.
A mere toddler, I remember running to my mom as she came through the front gates. I had been sitting on the steps with my brother and sister when I saw her squat down and stretch out her arms.
At about five-years-old, I remember my sister and I vowing to stay up the entire night. To cap it off, we sneaked downstairs to the basement to watch The Flintstones at five in the morning. Feeling proud, we couldn’t imagine why our parents were furious when they found us.
Still another memory is when I picked up bits and pieces from the carpet, supposedly cleaning. I amused my parents by gathering just enough in my hand before tossing it over my shoulder once again.
Memory works in funny ways. They don’t form an overarching view or even play out like a two-hour movie. Instead, they’re little snippets—10-second sound bites—we tuck away in our minds.
Now that my kids are older, I wonder what memories they’ll remember well into adulthood. Will it be today, when we were lounging on the blanket spread on the floor? Or the times I sat on the couch with my phone while they’re playing cars? I’ll stop what I’m doing and wonder, “Is this a moment they’ll remember several years from now?”
What I learned is that memories don’t discriminate. They include good and bad, grand and small. We remember the big outings to Disneyland just as much as drawing pictures in our room.
These memories you’re creating will come together and form an opinion of their childhood.
And this is what your kids will remember:
It didn’t matter if you worked zero, 20, 40 or even more hours in a week at your job. More than likely, they’re not counting. What they will remember is that you did what you thought was best for them. Sometimes you did the only thing you could do for them.
Don’t feel bad because you see your kids a few hours in a day. Don’t beat yourself up because you feel like your child isn’t getting “enough stimulation.” We do what’s best, or what we enjoy, or even what’s necessary.
They’ll remember the times you lost your temper. I’ve yelled at my kids, sometimes so loudly my voice felt coarse afterward. Those are painful memories to me. I’m embarrassed and afraid my kids will remember them even more.
They’ll remember small moments just as much if not more so than vacations and parties. My first memory of a birthday party was when I turned three. I didn’t remember the balloons, the cake or the games I knew existed because I saw photos of them years later. Instead, I remember walking around toying with a bracelet someone had placed on my wrist.
Your kids will remember the time you let them crawl in your bed at night because they couldn’t fall asleep. They’ll remember you playing in the kitchen as they pretended to cook alongside you. Or planting seeds in the backyard. Or eating pancakes on the weekends.
Creating childhood memories doesn’t always need grand plans or extravagant activities. Childhood memories are important, but we don’t create and “finish” them. Instead, we continue to make them. Right now, you are forming memories with your child.
Creating beautiful holiday decorations or first back-to-school photos is fantastic. But only so long as you enjoy it and not because you feel obligated to.
Putting pressure on yourself to create the perfect childhood will be remembered as just that: a mom too focused on creating potential memories instead of living them.
And forgive yourself for mistakes you may have made. You are not alone. We’ve all regretted doing something with our kids. Maybe it was losing our temper or choosing the computer over spending time with them.
Because here’s the thing: you’re likely harder on yourself than your kids are on you.
Kids are some of the most forgiving people I know. They don’t hold grudges because you both had a standoff earlier in the day. While you’re stewing about the tantrum he had, he has already moved on from it. (Check out a few reasons we shouldn’t blame ourselves so much.)
Your kids will remember you
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Kids don’t keep tabs. They won’t love you less because you’re home at six instead of at three. Instead, they’ll remember how you made them feel—the highlights.
Not whether you cut their sandwich into a dinosaur shape, but that you did little things to delight them. And not that you can’t always volunteer at field trips, but that you showered him with love from the time you came home until he fell asleep.
Focus on the now. Enjoy your kids, whether you’re hanging Christmas ornaments or hanging around your living room. The little things can form our memories. You never know. They might remember something as simple as running into your arms as you walk through the front door.
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Your turn: What’s a recent or favorite memory you have with your child? What do you think your kids will remember about their childhood?