Rosy's essay on Mothering Day, happily found on Facebook this morning, brought back a conversation I've been having with my daughter about our earliest memories. She is a children's librarian and has several weekly sessions with very small children. Almost all of these children are preschoolers and some are toddlers and a few are crawlers. She does story time, crafts and a music and movement session a few times a week. Most of these kids are from a somewhat impoverished Hispanic community that is going through some economic changes due to new commercial development. Some speak Spanish at home. If you ever watched Breaking Bad you might recognize the place.
Her experience is that the kids have long term memory covering the span of several months or longer but the literature she has researched on the topic says that those memories are lost and that by the time the kids reach pre-teen or teen years they won't remember much, if anything, from the preschool or toddler years. Her experience is that they remember and soak up just about everything. As parents we see this as well.
As we talked, I was amazed at what she did not remember from her early childhood. That trip to Disneyworld was a total waste. Much of her time in daycare with friends her own age and a series of caregivers is lost. A few things she remembers only from seeing photographs.
Apparently there are cultural differences in early memory. Canadian kids remember earlier experiences than do kids in China. Researchers think that there seems to be a parenting factor involved. Parental and cultural priorities make a difference. I wonder if there are generational differences. My generation was the first to grow up with television so I recall some of that.
When we think back to our earliest memory it often turns out to be some innocuous happening that would hardly matter. We also might recall what clothes we were wearing or a specific location or room. In my case it is a summertime visit to a restaurant and I recall what I wore. It might have been the occasion of my third birthday (in August) but I don't recall that specifically. The restaurant had a lot of windows and was very bright. Apart from my parents, I don't recall anyone else that I knew (sorry, bro). Other early memories are pretty sparse and scattered. My last grandmother died before I was five but I have several memories of her.
As a children's librarian, my daughter works hard bringing stories and new experiences into the lives of her kids. She's very good at it and has as many as 30 kids and parents each week. She is fascinated at how they are developing (physically and socially) but seems disappointed that, in the long run, they might not have any lasting memories of their weekly visits. Maybe so...but I can't accept the notion that it isn't having an impact. They will have positive memory snippets of going to the library, maybe have a favorite story or song and possibly recall the hour they spent with the brightly colored parachute marching in a circle. When I was that age we did not have those kinds of experiences.
So think back...what do you remember? Don't lose it.