What do you remember about your childhood? While there are bound to be the big-ticket memories—like a holiday in Disneyland or a cross-Canada road trip—I’d bet it’s the little things that stand out.
For me it’s things like my grandfather letting me pick every last raspberry from the bush in his backyard then sitting with me on his garden swing to devour each berry. It’s neighbourhood walks with my mom and stopping to pat every cat along the way. It’s my dad and his corny jokes—“I’m going to the bat-room; that’s where Batman goes in the morning!”—or addressing a crowded elavator, after the doors closed and it was too late to escape, “So I guess you’re wondering why I gathered you all here…”
When it comes to memories, what will make the most important difference in our children’s lives?
That’s the question that Krystine I. Batcho, professor and author of Longing for Nostalgia, set out to answer in an article for Psychology Today.
“Sometimes the activity is quite distinctive, such as building a tree house together;” writes Batcho. “Often, though, it is as commonplace as playing catch, getting ice cream, or going to lunch after a music lesson or sports practice.”
The most memorable experiences are more about the relationship we have with our kids, she says.
“In a world of competing obligations, it can be easy to forget the need a child has to feel special,” writes Batcho. “What activity fills the time together is less important than the fact that the time spent was spent together.”
We remember the difficult times as well as the happy ones.
“Even during the most difficult of circumstances,” writes Batcho, “parents have the opportunity to give their child the most important gifts—the assurance they are loved, the wisdom to appreciate what is most valuable, a model for coping with adversity with dignity, and understanding that suffering can be meaningful when endured as part of living for loved ones.”
The “ordinary” can overshadow the extravagant in memorability and lasting value, she adds. A walk in the rain. Singing together in the car. Playing in the autumn leaves. Each of these things can create lifelong memories. And later on, it will be the small things that evoke these memories. A photo. A song. A scent.
As the holiday season approaches, here’s to celebrating the little things, spending time together and making sure each child feels special.