Monday, September 19, 2011

What Children Remember

Jardin des Luxembourg, Paris

My son Mac was was looking at pictures from our recent trip to Paris. He didn't go with us on this trip, but I'd taken him there when he was younger, so he was familiar with most of the places we went. But when I showed him this picture of the Jardin des Luxembourg, he didn't remember going there. I wasn't surprised that he didn't remember this park specifically because we went to a different park every day on our trip. (I learned a hard lesson about traveling alone with a 9-year-old child-- you spend a lot of time at playgrounds, despite being in a city with a million other sights to see.)

Anyway, I told Mac that we had visited this park. He still didn't remember. So I said, "You played boats on the water with a little French boy at the reflecting pool." Ah, then he remembered!

It struck me how unique our memories are. There have been many other instances when my children recall small, inconsequential details instead of the major events that I think they'll remember. I took Mac to a festival when he was little. There was a concert and a few other big draws for him, but what he remembered most was the bank of blue mailboxes that he kept walking around.

My daughter remembers all sorts of details. She's very observant. But her memories are still very different than mine. She may remember a trip because of the breakfast bar at the hotel, or the elevators. The thing that left the biggest impression on her during our Sesame Place water park and the Atlantic City boardwalk was the sunburn my husband got on his back. Ironically, a sunburn is almost all I remember of my childhood trip to Disneyworld. I remember very little of the park itself, just the horrible sunburn on the backs of my legs.

So, would I change anything about these trips? Or stop taking my children to all these places that they only vaguely remember? No, certainly not. I just find it interesting that the things that make the greatest impressions on them aren't the things I actually take them to see at all.


  1. It's not just kids, lol. I *think* I went to those gardens too, but I barely remember. It was a whirlwind 2.5 days in Paris (in 2006).

    But yeah, my mom sometimes jokes that it was pointless to take me anywhere when I was 4 or younger, because I don't remember anything. In reality, though, we both know that those are valuable experiences, because they're formative. You learn about going out, traveling, interacting with people, seeing new things, being new places, etc. Memory doesn't matter. It's like a footprint in the sand: just because the tide washes it away doesn't mean it wasn't there, that it didn't have some impact on the beach.

  2. Well said, Kristan!