Sunday, October 30, 2005

in living memory

What exactly does "old enough to remember it" mean?

L is at the age where parents can cause lots of damage but they're unlikely to make any fond experiences stick. My own earliest memories start around age 3. My husband remembers a multi-colored dresser from when he was 2. Philip K. Dick wrote a novel about a man tormented by "memories" of the future; this consists of some pretty creepy in-utero and buried-alive scenes.

But sci-fi aside, most kids won't have conscious memories until age 3 or 4. From then to 7 years old, our memories are sparse. Psychologists call it infantile amnesia. Patricia Bauer points out that very young children have rich stores of mnemonics even before they develop language. She believes that the problem is not so much that kids don't remember as that they forget.

So why am I rambling on about memory? All the little decisions--going to a park, playing "where's your nose" together, holiday rituals, visits from grandparents who live thousands of miles away--are mostly for our benefit rather than hers. Yes, some of it is learning, and some of it is just developing good habits, but the vast majority of these experiences belong to the adults in L's life.

To quote my own mom, who quotes Maya Angelou: "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

In L's case, ticklish.


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