What Children Remember

Last April when my oldest boy was still a few months shy of his fourth birthday, I got a wonderful invitation to bring him on a free trip to Washington, DC. I didn't say yes right away, though—I had some epic worrying to do about handling a cross-country plane journey on my own with a toddler. I spent several days fretting about all the things that could possibly go wrong, including my plane-engine-phobic son shrieking like a firebell when the 747 roared to life in Seattle and not stopping for SIX SOLID HOURS.

When I asked for advice about the trip, several people told me that all the travel ass-painery wouldn't be worth it, because there's no way Riley would remember it when he was older.


I thought about that: whether it would matter to me if he remembered it or not. I mean, it's not like the reason we do nice things for our kids is because someday in the future they'll thank us, right? Otherwise we'd just store babies in a basement for the first few years, rather than carry out all those tiresome midnight feedings and whatnot.

I eventually decided to nut up and do the trip, and I was so glad that I did. We had a wonderful, wonderful time, and he did just great.

It would be okay with me if he didn't remember a single thing about visiting DC—I remember it, after all—but he sure does. He still talks about the plane, the space museum with the rockets, and the piggy bank we bought in an airport gift store.

Riley's memory has impressed me on more than one occasion. He remembers the magic wand game he played at a Great Wolf Lodge in 2009. The other day we walked by a random spot at the very end of our local mall and he pointed out that I'd taken his picture there during Halloween last year. He remembers visiting his uncle's house for Christmas, the year he was about 18 months old.

It makes me wonder what moments he'll still be able to think of, years and years from now. I can remember being in preschool and the pride/embarrassment of having a teacher show all my classmates how a frog design on my dress made a squeak if you pushed it. I remember my grandfather coming in my room one night to tuck me in, and how I was still in a crib at the time. I remember a late-night trip to the drugstore for an ear infection, and the orange-y, dusty taste of baby aspirin.

Have you ever been startled by your kids' ability to remember? Do you have any memories of your own from an improbably young age? 

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