Take a second and recall memories from when you were a child. Some memories just happen by default while others are carefully planned out with the hopes they will become treasured memories. Other memories fade in the abyss of thoughts. As a parent, we feel it is our responsibility to create lasting memories for our children. It is our hope that in twenty years, our children will start a story with, “remember that time…” and we will smile. In the moment of creating memories, how they are created can often get lost. It can feel like a burden if we do not realize that memories are made with love and togetherness.
Memories that just happen
Making memories should not be a task on a to-do list. It is just part of being a family. Sometimes I ask my kids what they remember about something, and they remember the time with their family. We move frequently, and every city we live in, we get zoo passes. At our current zoo, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, they allow visitors to feed the giraffes. On one visit, my three-year-old didn’t let go of the lettuce leaf and his entire hand went into the giraffe’s mouth. He was momentarily traumatized but now it is a favorite story for him. He brings it up at random times, recalling when the giraffe tried to eat his whole hand. I didn’t plan for that to happen, but now it is a memory deeply ingrained into all my children.
Making memories isn’t a plan, most memories just happen.
A friend of mine, whose parenting skills give me goals, takes her children to places where she has sweet memories. The other week, she took her kids to Frankfort, KY to play around the capital because she remembers how wonderful it was to play there when she was a child. She piggy-backed on her own memories so that her children could have the same ones. What a simple concept. It was not a lavish trip. The trip did not takes months of planning. It only required a one-hour drive west and good weather. I was not there, but I have a feeling her children will want to take their children to Frankfort to do cartwheels on the lawn outside the capital just like they did when they were young.
Created with love
When I was a kid, we didn’t take many huge trips. We went to San Francisco once and while I remember the entire trip, when I recall my childhood, I remember smaller moments. My father used to reenact the French & Indian War and we would go to rendezvous quite frequently. At one rendezvous, my father won a hatchet throwing competition. I watched in awe as he split a playing card perfectly in half and everyone cheered. Along with bragging rights, my dad won a trinket prize. I remember him handing it to me after I hugged him. It was his pure love that created such a prized memory for me. He had won this prize but knew that I would love it, so he gave it to me. I don’t even remember what rendezvous, what year, or where we were, but I can still perfectly picture his face in that moment.
Holiday traditions are common in many families and are a way to create lasting memories for children. Watching the same Christmas movie every year in new pajamas (hello, A Christmas Story!), hosting Thanksgiving, or watching the fireworks from the same park every summer. While holiday traditions are often easy to create, traditions don’t have to be rooted in the holidays. Seasonal traditions like summer BBQs with the neighbors or a special treat (S’mores, ice cream, or Mom’s famous chocolate chip cookies) to celebrate the end of the school year can be just as memorable. These memories are easily created and children will reflect on them for years to come. These are the memories children will want to recreate with their children; traditions are passed down from generation to generation, whether they are big or small, and they become woven into the fabric of our families.
Go with the flow
Memories are tricky because everyone remembers things differently. We, as parents, cannot dictate what part of a vacation or a tradition will be remembered. As adults, we deem things important that children don’t even notice. If the vacation is stressing me out, will my kids remember the vacation, or will they remember mom being all frazzled? I need to remember that moments of love often trump other moments. I remember looking out into the audience during an orchestra concert and seeing my parents; I remember finishing a halftime show in college and seeing my parents in the bleachers, knowing they drove a long way just to support me; I remember seeing my parents’ faces after I graduated from basic training and feeling their love and pride when they hugged me. These are the moments I cherish the most and, in turn, these are the kinds of moments I want my children to cherish.
I know that my children will remember Disneyland as a huge trip we took, but when they look back on their childhood, I want their memory banks to be full of loving moments. As I recollect certain moments of my life, I realize that it isn’t the moment that is special, but it is the love I feel from my family that makes it special. Making memories isn’t a plan, most memories just happen. When love pours into a moment, that moment becomes forever.