You Can't Script Your Children's Memories

You Can't Script Your Children's Memories

Erin Burt

Several friends and I sat in a half circle on the back porch, drinks in hand, watching our dirt-covered children race around happily on a hot summer night. They shrieked with glee as they chased and trapped fireflies in jars.

The mom among us with the oldest children sighed, “It’s too bad they won’t remember this memory.” And we all laughed, because we knew what she meant.

We recently took a family vacation to Colorado…filled with fishing, hiking, wildlife-watching, traipsing through wilderness and late breakfasts of cinnamon rolls and runny eggs. But, if you ask my children what they liked best about their trip, they will stare at you blankly before one of them finally says, “There was a cool bathtub in the house!”

Because…that’s all they remember from the trip.

It’s incredibly unfortunate that my children can recount to the smallest detail times where I lost my temper, or threw away their beloved tissue sculpture. But what about the time we swam with dolphins? Or any of the times I spontaneously whisked them away for donuts? Not so much.

I get that my children are still small and that they eventually will get better at remembering more of the fun things we do…but it makes me wonder if any of the attempts to create fun family memories are worth it before they turn ten? Will they remember all the times I blew bubbles with them in the backyard or drew with sidewalk chalk?

It can be discouraging as a mom, for sure. We all want our children to have happy childhood memories, yet we have zero control over what they actually remember. I have started compiling our pictures in a yearbook every year, and that helps a tiny bit. But our children’s memories? What will stick?

Knowing this, I’ve realized that I am more of a “grand gesture” kind of mom. Which, let’s face it, can’t really happen on your typical Tuesday. So, I’ve tried to focus on relationship…cuddling, kisses, kind tone. I’ve tried to focus on letting them help in the kitchen, despite the inevitable mess. There are significantly more days of their childhood that will be spent at home than on an elaborate family vacations, so I need to prioritize those.

Please don’t hear me saying that I can never send them to their rooms bored. We do our fair share of that…but I can’t keep living for the next big event and hoping that that's what will make up their childhood.

Annie Dillard says that how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. And that’s true for our children, too.

Kara Garis is a cloth diapering, baby wearing, semi-crunchy mama to two active boys and a baby girl. She lives with her husband in Oklahoma and loves running, cooking, traveling, reading and teaching herself how to braid. She blogs at

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