The Other Half-Dozen Memories

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Making memories is a big deal for me as a parent.

Everyone has memories from childhood—a broken arm, being bullied at school, going on a family vacation, getting that present that you’d prayed and prayed for, riding a chair lift with your dad and for the first time seeing the beauty of the mountains—somehow we emerge from childhood with at least twelve dominant memories.

Half of these memories can’t be controlled—the injuries, the car accident, the break-up—but the other half, I believe, can be shaped.

Because of this, Tamara and I make a very intentional effort to help speak into those other half-dozen memories. I often say,  “I want to claim those other six memories! They are ours!”

So how do you help shape memories with your kids?

One way we create family memories is through travel.  Why travel?  Because it provides time together, with just the family, away from all the routine, and away from the things our brains are patterned to do without reflection—to have an adventure, write a story, and make memories, together. The trips don’t have to be glamorous or expensive, and are sometimes nothing more than a short drive out of town or a business trip morphed into a family-friendly adventure-along-the-way, but whatever the impetus, we love making memories on the open road.

In fact, one of my childhood memories is the Wednesday night Burger King tradition we had in the late 70s when I was a kid growing up in Milpitas, California. I can still picture the Whopper Jr.’s!

Another thing we do is take pictures and actually print them. In today’s digital age, people often neglect getting pictures printed because we have them so readily available in digital form. On our trips, we take pictures and also encourage our girls to take pictures of things that catch their eye themselves. Often, they’ll remember where they were when they were taking the picture, why they were taking the picture, or how they felt when they were taking the picture. The picture taking not only captures an experience, but can often be a memory in itself.

We then get favorites printed and have our girls put them up in their rooms, in our house, or hand them to relatives to put on refrigerators. Brain science tells us that often the picture becomes the memory. We all know this to be true—my dominant memory of my grandpa is inseparable from the picture of him at Disneyland.

So if you really want to speak into your children’s memories, putting up a picture they see time and again, possibly year after year, is one of the best ways to help reinforce a good memory and drive it deeper into the mind.

Lastly, I believe the best the way to create memories is with tradition.

When you practice a tradition year after year, layer upon layer, you begin to deepen the experience to the core of a person. The sights, the familiar smells, the anticipation of what’s to come can lay a foundation for a young boy’s or girl’s identity, how they view themselves, and what they believe to be the storyline of their lives.

When it comes to the holidays, we try to emphasize tradition as a family, not in the American way of celebrating the holidays, but by asking what our family’s spin on the holidays can be.

Can we make driving around on Christmas Eve to look at Christmas lights with hot chocolate a special annual family event?

What special meals are we going to make year after year for the different holidays?

Are there family friendly movies that can become associated with the holidays and give an excuse for a cozy caramel corn and family movie night together?

How are we going to remind our daughters about the blessings of last year and pray a blessing over them each New Year?

How are we going to include extended family and friends?

Holidays are important to us because they are such a powerful shaping opportunity for kids—especially if we create annual traditions that drive experiences and memories deeper each passing year.

I want to be proactive about doing what I can to instill a positive childhood memories into my kids with the other half-dozen memories—memories that reinforce our love for them, their uniqueness in the world, and the sense of identity and tradition they carry forward.

Though I can’t control the inevitable traumatic childhood memories, such as Ashlin’s broken arm; if I care enough, I’m confident I can help create dominant memories of riding on my shoulders, nightly tuck-ins or her reading special books with dad.

Everyone has a dozen or so dominant childhood memories—half of these can’t be controlled, but, as parents, we can influence the other half.

“Life is all memory, except for the present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going.” — Tennessee Williams

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