Make a list: Childhood Memories

Toddler with toys in cartThis series about list making revolves around the idea of using lists to examine our life and our perception and to highlight the good things in life, so we can enjoy them, appreciate them and be happy.

In this post, I want to explain the importance of remembering. I did write “good memories from childhood” in the original list of lists, but I think that the mere act of remembering, even if we recall some bad memories, moves our personal growth forward.

It is funny that when I mention memories, people go to the past and start digging. Some people find it hard to remember childhood experiences. For some, the past is more vivid, while for others, it is vague and unclear. Some remember what happened and others only remember what they felt about what happened.

What is special about childhood memories is that we had very limited life experience to interpret them within their whole context. For example, remembering an incident with our parents being upset with us usually misses what our parents had to deal with at work, in their relationships, their history with their own parents, their fears and so on.

Life is a rough biography.  Memories smooth out the edges
– Dante G. Roque

Years ago, I participated in a gratefulness mediation, and I do not remember what happened at all. I remember waking up from a deep sleep, seeing about 25 people on the floor around me and feeling a bit disoriented. Everyone said goodbye and when I was on the bus, I started crying without knowing exactly why.

During the meditation, we were asked to think of someone who had done something special for us and whom we had never thanked for it. I thought of my sister, who was just 4 years older than I was. She was an excellent student and I was not a good student at all. I had many problems at school and every week, I had to give my dad 2-3 letters of complaint about my behavior, my homework (which I did not do most of the time – can you imagine? I have a degree in education now), not bringing a pencil or an erase and the likes. My dad was very unhappy about it all. Every other day, he would be angry with me and I was afraid to come back home (or go to school, for that matter).

One day, when I was in Grade 4 and my sister was in Grade 8, she took my diary and forged my dad’s signature, so I never showed him the letter. 35 years later, when I went through that meditation, I remembered I had never thanked my sister and it had meant so much to me.

Young girlThe following day, I called my sister (who lives on the other side of the world) and asked her about it (and thanked her, of course). She explained to me that she had done it for me, but also for my dad, and I realized that when she was just 13 years old, she already had a different perspective on life. When we talked about that period, I realized that her memory of what happened was very different to mine.

You are probably asking yourself, “Which memory is the right one?”

Well, I asked myself he same question and did an experiment with my family (highly recommended!). I sent my parents and my siblings questions about our childhood and asked all of them to send their answers to everyone else. It was amazing to read that the same event was experienced differently by each of us. The conclusion was that there is no right memory! It is all perception and perception is subjective.

How to make your memory list

When you make this list, bear in mind that your memories do not need confirmation to be valid. If you remember them a certain way, then for you, they happened exactly that way. You can ask other people who were around during that time to add some information to the puzzle. It is enlightening, but not required.

Tips and ideas to remember:

  • CrayonsTry to go back to the first memories you have. I have a memory of split seconds and I am not really sure if it happened or someone told me about it. Nevertheless, it is the first memory I have.
  • Think of childhood friends and what you did with them. When I think of childhood friends, I have tons of memories – great memories of going with my childhood friend to the library, making bonfires, playing hide and seek and our moms calling us to come home for dinner (again and again).
  • Recall special events in your family life, like births or your siblings’ celebrations. I was 11 when my younger sister was born. I remember us sitting outside the day she came home. For months, we had tried to find a good name for her, but when my parents brought her from the hospital, they gave her a name we had never thought of. I remember feeling strange about it.
  • Remember holidays you took with your family.
  • School memories – subjects you were good at, teachers you loved, friends you played with, things you did during breaks, homework, projects, school trips, special years, special events in school and so on.
  • School breaks and what you did in them: summer camps, visits, trips, hobbies, boredom and mischief.
  • Neighborhood memories – special people, meeting on the street, various neighbors, the surroundings, etc.
  • The houses you have lived in.
  • The rooms you have had – your bed, desk, walls, toys, closet…
  • The towns you have lived in – what was special about them, how long have you lived in each one, where was the centre of town (we had jokes about two of the small towns I lived in that they were so small that when they finally got a stop light, the whole town came to celebrate.
  • Your family’s financial situation during childhood.
  • BootsYour medical condition or that of others in your family – sickness memories (Mum or Dad staying with you, lots of candy and attention), hospitals, etc.
  • TV shows you loved when you were a kid. This is a great way to tell everyone how old you are. I am from the “Little house on the prairie” generation and I remember that every Wednesday at 5:30pm, life stopped and we would run home to watch a Walt Disney movie. Life was planned around it.
  • Gifts you have received.
  • Good deeds you have done to help and support someone else.
  • Childhood songs you remember from home, kindergarten or school.
  • Funny moment in your family life. When I was a kid (about 10 years old), we used to make fun of our parents’ snoring. One day, we decided to record my dad snoring so we could prove to him that he snored. We brought a tape recorder with a microphone next to his bed and waited patiently for him to start snoring. We were very quiet and stopped breathing so he would not wake up. Suddenly, he started snoring loudly and we were so startled we ran away from the room and threw down the microphone, which woke him up. We never got our proof, but we laughed so much it was worth it.
  • Person sitting on a rockSpecial awards you received during childhood. Gee, the first award I remember was in Grade 11 – an excellence award for academic achievements – after being kicked out of school in Grade 10. I am not so sure this was my first award, but this is the only one I remember. If you are a parent, make sure your kids have good memories of their awards and trophies. What is the point of having them if you do not remember?
  • If you are stuck, revisit your teen years. It still counts as childhood and the memories there are usually clearer.

I recommend focusing on good memories (at least at first), but if you do bump into something else, remember they were just a perception and you can use the opportunity to forgive yourself for not having enough knowledge, understanding or experience. At the same time, you can forgive others for the same things.

Join me next week for chapter 7 of our list making – 100 Ways to Say “I Love You”.

Easy and rewarding memory therapy!

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  • Bruce Hathaway@mics and more online

    Did your kid laugh also. If I were the child I’d feel like you were making fun of me snoring.

    Anyway it is good to be relaxed enough to laugh and be happy. But I guess you just have to share it and be emotionaly connected to your children and your spouse. As I’m sure you know, Children learn by what they see and experience.

  • Ronit Baras

    HI Bruce,

    We were kids and did it to our dad.
    In our house, my mum and dad always said to each other ” you didn’t let me sleep, you were snoring the whole night” and we used to say to them, ” what are you talking about? you both snore”
    It was funny ( good memory) and we wanted to record my dad to prove to him that he did snore. We were so young and did not even think that recording is not a proof at all as no one can tell who is the recorded person.
    But it was funny and still a good memory.

    Yes, being connected to our kids and partners is important for great parenting.

    Happy day

  • Aiza

    I’m really not that good in remembering old memories… sometimes I forget about it but there are some that I could still remember… Just like what happened to my first boyfriend.. I am so good in remembering those things… :-)

  • Ronit Baras


    I am so happy there are many photos and videos that can remind us things.
    Having a diary can help too.