I try to remind myself that my children are having their childhood now. Does that sound kind of obvious?! It does to me, too. What I mean is that at some point in the last few years it really struck me how much our individual childhoods influence, mold, and inform us—and that we get only one! For my kids, that time is now.
We each have the version of our childhood that we stick to and repeat. It’s the version of life as we knew it, independent of our parents’ perspectives of how we experienced life with them, in our families of origin. Our story of growing up can make sense of our successes and our challenges, and of our idiosyncrasies and uniqueness. And most parents hope that–whether what they are doing is it’s right, wrong, or good enough–their children grow up remembering parents at least tried to give them all they could. Life’s not all Disneyland and dessert, but we need our kids to cherish memories of togetherness, joy, support, and unconditional love as much as possible.
According to author, David Willis, children will remember a short, but important list, “The 5 Things Your Kids Will Remember About You”:
- The times you made them feel safe
- The times you gave them your undivided attention
- The way you interacted with your spouse/partner
- Your words of affirmation AND your words of criticism
- Your family traditions
I have put this small but hugely important list on my family’s fridge to remind my husband and me that what is important now, through the years of raising our kids and all that brings, is what they will likely take with them. It’s probably not the organic breakfasts or help with Common Core Math (what the?!) or all the driving to ballet or Taekwondo or the regular dental appointments or the Star Wars sheets or the number of things to fill the spaces.
What they’ll probably look back to the moments in time, like sleeping together on the family room floor after the early morning earthquake stopped shaking the house; or the “tell me more” moments of attention that didn’t include checking texts or business emails; or how often they saw their parents express their love to each other; and before bed pep talks, and words of encouragement through their tears about social stress or friend drama or the death of a beloved grandparent; and all the holiday dinners and extended family memories of being together and sharing life. These are what will likely inform them in their own possible journeys of parenthood.
And these are the moments they will likely remember and hold close. And these are the moments that are still in my and my husband’s control to create. John Bradshaw famously wrote that “it’s never too late to have a happy childhood…” And I know it’s never too late to start making it even happier for our children.