I have two whole memories of my mom. They both were at a very young age, as my mom went away when I was only 4 years old.
The first memory I have was being in my mom’s arms walking up to our front door of the first house I lived in with both my parents. It’s a very brief memory, but it’s very special because it was a memory of my mom.
The second memory is a memory of us sitting in the backyard during the summer. I remember feeling the warmth of the sun as I sat proudly next to my mom in a matching lawn chair. I remember looking at her loving face and asking her “when are they coming?” and her giving me some sort of reply. Apparently, we had a bee problem, and we were waiting on the bee people to come and take care of it.
I don’t remember any more of the details. But that’s ok. I remember the warm sunny day and feeling proud and happy being with my mom.
As I get older, those memories have been taken out and re-cherished so many times that they don’t feel “real” anymore. They feel like treasures that have been polished and put on the mantel to look at, over and over again.
But I know they are real because they have been a part of who I am my entire life.
I cherish these memories because when my mom left and later divorced my dad, I never saw her again. Ever.
The story is a sad one. I have grieved often for this little girl that never got to see her mom again.
But it is part of what made me the person I am today. And it’s part of why I do the meaningful work that I do today in advocating for kids.
I tell you this story because I want you to know something very important.
Every child’s dream
It’s every child’s dream to have their parents fall in love and live happily ever after so they can be part of a happy and intact family.
This doesn’t mean that we will have unfulfilled lives if this doesn’t happen. Let’s face it, these kind of fairy tale lives are rare and usually only found in… well… fairy tales.
Once in a while, we come across a family that lives closer to this fairy tale life than some of us, but the reality is that most of us live messy lives with a series of mini broken dreams.
As an idealist, that sounds so sad to me. But truthfully, as humans we are incredibly strong and can adapt to new situations and find joy and happiness in those new situations.
And in fact, suffering and hardship can help us to grow and become deeper people.
And although it’s important to keep things age appropriate and as parents, we try to protect our kids from as much adult messiness as possible, when it’s unavoidable, we can also teach them during life’s messes. We can teach them it’s ok to be sad, mad, worried. But it’s just as important to teach them what to do with those feelings. Because all those memories of those life lessons are getting stored in their ever developing brains.
What an old guy believed about our first memories
Alfred Adler believed and taught that our earliest memories can give us insights into our outlook on life and our way of perceiving the world. Although Alfred never developed a formula to interpret our early memories, it can be interesting to see what our early memories were and what the significance of that memory was to us.
For me, some of my earliest memories were with my mom.
I’m so thankful that I have those memories as our ability to retrieve memories doesn’t usually start until around the age of 4. And my mom left when I was 4.
I’m also thankful that although I never got to see my mom again, my memories of her were forever recorded as happy memories: sitting together on a beautiful sunny day, and being held in her arms.
Not too bad I say.
So parents, think on this.
You are part of creating memories for the next generation of humans, known as your kids. Make them count. And if you have a bad day and mess up, don’t beat yourself up.
Go repair it, do it now. So, they can store that memory away as a happy end of the story.
And feel free to let me know some of your thoughts on how your childhood memories can help you be better parents.