Early memories

My first solid and concrete memory is going to see my new-born cousin in hospital. It was a bit dark with lights above the beds and my family was there. I played with some toys on the floor. It’s difficult to describe anything more but the pictures are in my head. Framed.

I was one month away from being 3 years old. July 1975.

To be honest I’m surprised I remember this. I can leave the house and go to the supermarket and forget not just the list I wrote but absolutely every single item on it. But I’m getting old and, sometimes, have a lot going on in my headbox.

The next strongest, earliest memory I have is of attending a playgroup in a local Methodist hall. I remember the domed roof and the massive flight of stairs. I remember the smell and the other children. I remember not liking it very much. I didn’t have a lot of contact with other children as I hadn’t started nursery school and the echoing noise of others scared me a bit.

After that I can remember more. I started nursery at 4. I remember the sand pit and the day Paul Taylor put some in the piano and got shouted at. I remember the day the teacher threw the Lego box in the air in frustration. I remember going on a day trip to Littlehampton and being taught to whistle by the boyfriend of my favourite teacher. I  how sad I felt when she left at the end of term to have a baby.

My son was 3 in February, and it strikes me that if, as an almost 40 year old bloke, I can remember something from just before my 3rd birthday, then my son will probably be able to do the same.

Better be on my best behaviour then!

Gosh. What will he remember? Arguments surrounding our divorce? Hopefully not. We did our best to not do that but some sniping occurred. I hope he doesn’t remember these things. Sometimes when my ex-wife and I are talking about stuff, general things and nothing emotional, he shouts at us and tells us to “STOP TALKING”. I wonder if this is because he’s seen that talking leads to shouting.

What else will he remember? Days out? Saturday for example. A trip to the farm last week with mummy. His first cinema experience. Lunch in the pub with Granny Pat and Auntie Mary. We plan to take the children to London this week to see London and get into the Olympic vibe in some way. He’ll remember this I’m sure.

His playgroup? His friends? He may grow older and remember some of the names of the children in his playgroup. He may sit and wonder what happened to them. The people who worked at the playgroup?

Going to the allotment with K and daddy? Flying a kite for the first time? Going to Spain with mummy? A christmas without daddy?


Sometimes things like this terrify me. I know as parents we shape our children’s lives and I know that this is the point where my son may well be able to look back when he’s older and think about times and events. It’s even more important therefore that we do the right thing and explain things to him in the right way.

Of course, I have all this to look forward to with K too. She’s not 2 until October so I think the things she’s experiencing now she’ll forget. But I don’t know. Best explain them to them both then, to be on the safe side.

On Sunday night, just before his bedtime, I had a phone conversation with T. I left him and K and their mummy on Sunday around 3-ish. We were leaving the kite festival but T changed his mind and didn’t want to leave just then, even as we were on the way to the car. Saying goodbye is always hard and as the goodbyes were already going on, and, as there were still big kites to distract T from my departure, I thought it was best to keep on and not postpone it as, whenever it would happen he wouldn’t be happy. At least he had the kites to look at.

Back to the phone conversation.

“Daddy? Why did you go?”

“Oh T. I didn’t want to go, but I spent a lot of time with just you and K on Saturday when mummy wasn’t about, and so it was time for you, K and mummy to have some time by yourselves. Mummy likes to spend time with you too and that’s fair isn’t it? She doesn’t spend the time with you during the week as you’re at playgroup and she’s at work. And I’ll see you on Wednesday.”

“Yes daddy, but I asked you not to go. And I got upset.”

He may not remember this conversation but the feeling of guilt that sat with me, still sits with me, will sit with me until I die.

That @motherventing wrote a sublime piece on a very similar subject a while back, and I’d urge you to read hers, which is here.

What do your children remember from when they were younger? What are your earliest memories? All comments and stories are very much appreciated.


15 responses to “Early memories

  1. My earliest memory is of being pushed in my buggy in the rain, safe and warm under the rain cover. I don’t know how old I was but I’d guess 3 as my sister wasn’t there yet.
    My son shouts at us to STOP TALKING too, I think it’s natural toddler narcissism!
    Another lovely, considered post. Your kids are lucky to have you as their dad.

  2. My earliest memory is also in hospital – visiting when my brother was born. I was 2 1/2. I remember a bright white room, the foot of a bed, sitting on someone’s lap and being given a bambi book. I have no recollection of my brother as a baby (even after the hospital). Books are more important to 2 year olds than baby brothers

  3. My sister and I talked about this a while ago and we realised that we have no memories of our parents being together. We have the same earliest memory of the day our Mum left when I was about 6 and she was 8. I have seen plenty of photos of happy times before that so I have no idea why neither of us can remember them. We both have very clear memories of things we did in the months before we went to live with her but nothing before. I realise this is not the most positive thing to be sharing with you right now but the good thing is I don’t remember any rows. In fact I have no idea if there even were any.

  4. I still remember being stung by a bee on my throat.. must have been about 3 years old. For years I was a singer, and I always put it down to this event!

  5. My son also tells me to stop talking. Not quite as often as he tells me to stop singing, tho that may be fair comment. Thanks for the blog- always a great read, honest and funny. Your kids will overwhelmingly remember the love they are surrounded with, and that will make any memories good ones. Good luck.

  6. My earliest memory is of being in hospital. I had a plaster cast on my leg and I was in a metal cot with metal bars in a room of other metal cots. There was a red plastic toy clock tied to the inside of the bars and my dad was in his paint spattered painters ‘whites’ painting pretty colours on the windows.

    I’m not sure how old I was but my plaster casts came off when I was 12 months old. When I asked my dad about it I apparently described my last stay in hospital and the pretty colours he was painting were actually characters from Peter Pan that the nurses asked him to paint on the windows, his way of cheering up the ward.

    The majority of my childhood memories are good ones, through it all I knew I was loved. My parents split up a couple of times and while I remember it I don’t feel upset by it.

    Your kids are lucky that you care so much and that you want their memories to be positive ones.

  7. One of mine is when we lived with my grandparents while my parents renovated our home. I would’ve been between 2 and three. My grandfather would get me up early in the mornings (he had been a baker and never got passed the early rising habit) before the rest of the house was awake and we would go to the kitchen together to make the tea (in a warmed pot with leaves and using a stainless steel strainer) and he would sing nursery rhymes with me and make up stories.
    The only other thing I remember from that time is the hideous 70s curtains!
    My clearest memories are from about 2 years after that when we moved to Aberdeen, I remember so much from that time 🙂
    What your children will remember will be fragments from now mixed in with hundreds of other flashes of memories, good and bad, the same as we all do, you just need to make sure you carry on making those happy memories 🙂 xx

  8. My earliest memory is drowning. I had just turned 3. We lived on a riverbank (literally), my brothers set off for school and I followed them out the door and on to the river path. I saw something floating and I walked out to get it. I don’t remember any of that, those are the details my family remember. My memory is of things going dark and quiet then bright and screaming (the old lady next door), and standing on the doorstep with my brothers in thier school clothes, and my neighbour in his underpants (the old lady’s son who had leapt out of his window to dive in and rescue me), which I thought was ‘rude’. All of us soaking wet!

    Being the fifth of six kids, I have a few stories like that, and a few scars to match! I know my kids haven’t had such mishaps. The significance of what we remember and what we forget as we get older is a mystery. I wonder whether it’s the trauma, or the reinforcement the memory gets when it is discussed throughout my life that makes it vivid. I think it’s the latter, and talking about the good times and reinforcing the wonderful days like you kite flying together, must go along way to creating happy childhood memories.

    Loved your post!

  9. My first memory is a sad one 😦 but happy too. I am nearly three and visiting my cousin at hospital. She had leukaemia and died 3 weeks later. I remember her bald head, the hospital lights and I remember she dropped the connect four and i had to pick it up. She gave me a card she made and I remember how beautiful she seemed, so fragile but peaceful.
    I always hope 3 yo remembers the good bits as well as the bad. Even with no divorce we still have arguments when we shouldn’t. And he has also told us to Stop Speaking…

  10. My earliest memories are – playing with a matchbox toy car on the carpet and being tucked in a blanket by my mom. Probably around 3 y.o. also. Don’t worry about some mistakes you might have done in your relationship. My parents split much later and the worst memories I have are about them fighting all the time until I was a teenager. The best thing you can do for your kid to have happy memories is start enjoying your life and being happy. Right now I really think splitting up was the best thing they’ve ever done. Too bad it took them so long. Maybe try freezing some happy memories of your kids on photo – that way they’ll always see what they can’t remember. Ran into interesting site yesterday – Freshumans.com – earliest photos of newborn kids- they’ll always be able to see themselves at age 0 🙂

  11. When my eldest was an early talker. Articulate from quite early on. When she was very little, toddling, maybe just coming up to 2, we were walking round a shopping centre & she suddenly said “Mummy, I was in your tummy & I couldn’t get out. The tall man made a new door coz I was stuck”. This was totally unprompted & completely freaked me out. She was born by a VERY emergency c-section. I’d only just arrived at the hospital & they put me straight under a general anaesthetic. I remember very little about it but the surgeon was a really tall man. They told me after that her cord was tight around her neck & her heartbeat was failing. She’s 6 now & I don’t think she remembers it any more, or if she ever did. Makes you think though, eh.

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