My husband and I were having a discussion recently about when and if to take our three little girls to the most magical place on Earth (aside from Target): Disney World. Their age range makes it tricky… wait too long and our oldest might outgrow princesses and character breakfasts, but go too soon and our youngest won’t have any recollection of ever going.
“That's a lot of money to spend for them not to remember the trip,” we found ourselves reasoning.
The more I thought about it, though, the more I found myself challenging the idea that making memories only counts if our kids are the ones remembering the moments. After all, science has pointed to the probability that most long-term memories don’t really stick until later in childhood. Are we supposed to forgo experiences with our little ones just because they might not remember those experiences when they’re older?
In our quest to make childhood memorable and magical, we forget that we, as parents, are also living our lives—and really growing up—alongside our kids. Each day that passes is equally a day of our lives as it is theirs, and even if they will have zero recollection of something we did with them, we will remember this time spent with our children.
Take first birthday parties, for example. Most parents celebrate their child’s first birthday in some way, and many go big: family and friends gathered, a theme, a smash cake, special pictures. Will the baby remember any of it? Of course not; but the parents will, and it will become a lasting memory which they can share with their child as they grow older. It’s also a celebration of the parents for surviving that first year of parenthood – and a much deserved one!
Family vacations that begin before the age of long-term memory are just as important and beautiful as those taken with older children. Nothing can replace the feeling of dancing in the waves while holding tiny hands, exploring new places with curious little minds, or sharing a dripping ice cream cone with licks and laughs on the boardwalk.
That’s the thing with memories: they’re more than just images that flash through our minds or even photos captured for social media and family albums. Memories are made from experiences, and every experience adds up to shape us as people from the time we’re very small and long before we can officially remember much at all.
As ever growing and evolving beings, it’s important to value those experiences as adults, too. Do we stop learning new lessons or marveling at nature or reveling in the comfort and security of family just because we become a grown up? The answer, of course, is no—and the more positive experiences and, yes, memories we create, the more fulfilled and happier we’ll be. The more fulfilled and happier we are, the better parent we become.
So next time you’re contemplating the same thing my husband and I were (whether on a scale as large as Disney or an everyday memory-to-be-made, which are often the most extraordinary memories of all), consider this: whether you think your child will remember something or not, these are the days, and they are your memories, too. Go ahead and make them beautiful.