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.