Did you have a happy childhood? At our age today we may be able to make a pretty fair assessment of whether or not we had a happy childhood but when we put ourselves in the shoes of a five-year-old, an average day is mostly one filled with a thousand NOs and DON’Ts.
Like most well-meaning parents we try our very best to give our kids the happiest childhood they can possibly experience so that one day, when they grow up and have kids of their own, they may look back and remember how beautiful it was to be a child. Unfortunately though, according to Dr. Thomas A. Harris, it is impossible for children to have a childhood filled with mostly beautiful memories free from pain, frustration and despair especially in the first five years of life. In our effort as parents to raise them to become civilized adults we constantly bombard them with reproof and warnings and sometimes we become overprotective that we’re smothering them and even preventing them to make discoveries on their own. I guess we’ve grown a lot we’ve forgotten how simply delightful it was to run around in the rain and play in the puddle, to put things into our mouths and see what they taste like (and whether or not they’re edible), to hold that poor little gold fish in our hand, to share a bar of Baby Ruth with Bingo. Little children are far too young to understand that they might catch a cold if they play in the rain. What they know is that are prevented to have fun; they remember the feeling of being thwarted, not the reason behind.
Memories – the pleasant and the not-so-pleasant
Fortunately it’s not as sad as it actually seems. The human brain never stops recording daily experiences and these recordings are always available to us for replay later in life and no matter how much our childhood is filled with frustrations and despair, we can always choose from among our files those happy memory we can recall and relive in the present. We can’t always control the circumstances of our children’s childhood and keep them safe from unhappy experiences but we can always do one thing every day to fill their data banks with pleasant memories.
“You are worthwhile…”
Today, whenever possible, my husband and I bring our kids outdoors to have fun. When we can’t go out, the three of them would bathe and groom the family pet together. Sure, children love video games or watching stuff on Youtube, but besides the need to minimize their screen time I notice that they appreciate it more when mommy and daddy spend time with them. It makes them feel worthwhile. I myself could never forget the first time my father let me drive or taught me how to shoot; how my mother taught me how to bake or how my favorite aunt spent time to teach me how to crochet.
Feelings vs. Events
Our children may not always remember the happy events of their childhood – when they happened or how they happened. But they will certainly remember how the experience made them feel – how cool the breeze was on their face as they ran across the pastures that morning, how sweet the guavas were and how exhilarating it was to hop from one boulder to another. Studies show that scents are also powerful stimuli to evoke memories in our brains. The smell of cinnamon, for instance, may remind us of beautiful Sunday mornings after church when mother made pancakes or French toast at the kitchen. And so it won’t be surprising if one day your grown-up kid would smell your favorite cologne and she will suddenly be transported back to that summer afternoon when you were pushing her on a tree swing.
I may not always be there to make my kids’ childhood free from pain and frustrations, but I can do my best now to willfully spend quality time with them so that one day they might look back and remember that despite the strings of NOs and DON’Ts and tons of frustrations, it was a beautiful childhood nonetheless, and they as children were worth our while.
It’s never too late to begin…
So go ahead, try to drop everything off for the weekend and take the kids out on a date. You’ll be amazed at how happy you can make them and how fulfilling it can be for you as a parent, too.