Sunday, August 07, 2005

Saving Memories

Now that my kids are a bit older, they've started asking questions. Some of the questions are things like "What was my first word?" and "What did I do when....?" It's funny, but as a young mom I thought I'd remember details like that forever. I thought for sure that all of those goofy things the kids said and did would be etched in my mind for eternity. I thought wrong.

Somewhere over the years, in between the busy-ness that comes with raising three girls, I've forgotten many of the answers to their questions. It's especially bad for the youngest daughter. The infancies and early years of all three girls kind of blur together, and I barely remember the rushing about to get the baby fed while chasing the toddler while occupying the preschooler. Maybe that's a blessing in its own way, but it surely is disappointing to the kids.

Now that they are teens, they all have a strong desire to know about their beginnings. They see other babies (yes, even babies that belong to their friends and classmates!), and they wonder what they were like at that age. They want to know how they slurred the words when they first learned to talk, where they took their first steps, what foods were favorites and which were yucky, and on and on and on. Some of these answers are noted in various baby books that my husband wrote for them, but many of the details are just plain gone forever. That's kind of sad, especially for my youngest, who has the scantiest written record. We were just simply too busy to keep up with it as well as we had for the older girls.

So, I thought that young parents and parents-to-be might enjoy a sneak preview of what their children are likely to want to know in ten or fifteen years. This list should give you some ideas about what to write down, what to save, and what to remember. My one caution is don't trust your brain. Life moves so quickly anymore, and things change so fast that it's difficult to keep all of those details straight. Particularly if you have more than one child, it's crucial that you write down those details or find some other method of recording them.

So far, my kids have asked about their firsts: first words, first steps, first foods, first trips out into the world, first anything. They want to see their first drawings, first pictures of people, and first attempts to write their names. They ask about the first times that they did this or that, especially if they are still doing it. For example, they want to know about the first time that they sat together on the living room couch to hear "The Night Before Christmas" on Christmas Eve. Believe it or not, they are *still* following that tradition at 18, 16 and 13, even though their copies of the book are falling apart.

The kids also want to know about their funnies. They ask for stories about what they did that was cute or endearing at early ages. They delight in hearing about the time that the eldest stepped off the sidewalk in defiance of motherly advice and sank up to her ankles in mud. She thought that she was stuck for good! They still crack up when the story is told about when oldest sister decided to make middle sister into a "scarecrow" by filling her sweatpants with sand. The little one couldn't stand up, because her bottom was so heavy! The youngest adores hearing how she mixed up sounds in her words at first and ate lots of "buh-sketty" and took her bath using a "bosh-coff."

They also want to know more and more about their first visits with their extended family. It seems particularly important to them to hear the stories of their paternal grandparents, one of whom passed away and the other who is now in rapidly failing health. They want to know what they thought of each other when they first met-"Did I like grandma?" "Was I ever afraid of grandpa?" I have to tell them of the time that their over eager maternal grandfather wanted to see his new granddaughter so badly that he rushed into her nursery without taking off winter hat and coat. She was so badly frightened by this strange man that she wouldn't let him near the entire weekend. Fortunately, the crisis had blown over by the next visit, and now they are the best of friends.

But you can see the kinds of details that your children will eventually ask about. They will want detailed accounts of the imaginary friends, the first day of preschool, the first time you took them to church, and more. Don't let these details disappear into oblivion! Write them down, record them on tape, and put the evidence into a bin somewhere so that you can trot it out when the time is right. Your children will be fascinated and eventually very grateful. I think it's important to all of us to understand our earliest days.

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