How far back do you remember? What are some of those memories – big moments? Small moments? Traditions or a one of a kind experience? They are all important.
I recently enjoyed a ‘cousin’s weekend hosted by the adult child of a first cousin. The younger adults and their young children look forward to this annual weekend summer gathering. The older adults drop in and enjoy seeing all of our children sharing their children just as we did over the last few decades.
There are expectations – Will aunt Carol bring her delicious tarts? Uncle Jay will likely fall asleep on a couch. Will little Soleil swim this year? There is acceptance, sharing and love. Members feel part of something that offers a respite from the travails of the everyday world. Family group traditions help us feel grounded. Even if you are not close with all of your family members, you gravitate to your favorites. There is predictability and that feels safe even if it’s not always ideal.
I recall hiding under a long holiday table, with other little cousins, waiting for the grown-ups to find us. Now we talk about when we played house and the grass became spaghetti and little stones were meatballs. When we share about “back then,” we each have some specific memories that others have forgotten. We may also have different perspectives of some of the same situations that expand our views. There is something special in having people who your memories… that you don’t have with anyone else. You are part of something bigger than yourself and connected. We thrive on connections.
As soon as we are old enough to recall, memory building takes place. Each memory ‘brick’ adds to children’s emotional foundation. Bed and meal time routines, vacations, how we celebrate occasions and holidays help form our children and affects how they will create and maintain friendships and relationships. We grow up and move on to different lives in other places but there remains a sense of belonging and safety in returning to our past. As children grow, such memories are imprinted in their mental album. Siblings share memories that no one else has can be a great comfort, especially during trying times.
We are a conglomerate of memories. They can add to or subtract from our level of self-esteem. They can transform into emotional symptoms – or – give us strength to overcome adversity. Think of all of the special ‘bricks’ you provide for your children. Consider having a family evening for sharing memories. You may learn about experiences that you didn’t give a second thought to but were meaningful to your child. There may be some delightful surprises!