Building happy family memories
By Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell
Upon becoming a father, I have spent a good deal of time reflecting on my childhood. From this I have come to realize that childhood memories are very important and go a long way in determining the future adult. As parents we need to be careful in what kind of memories we are building for our children – a point to which I can personally attest. This article tackles the fine art of memory building.
First, be aware that attempts at memory building may have unintended results. I grew up in Florida with a father who loved fishing. He particularly enjoyed deep sea fishing. Unfortunately, I was prone to sea sickness. Initially my dad figured that if he took me out often enough, I would get my sea legs and overcome my motion sickness. After hundreds of trips and years of trying, he finally realized that this theory was seriously flawed. His next plan was to pump me full of motion sickness pills, even though these were not recommended for a child my age. The end result of this doping was that I slept the day away on the bow of the boat, baking in the sun. I hate fishing with a passion to this day.
A second potential problem with ill-conceived attempts at memory building is that the memories created may come back to haunt you. Once my dad’s dream of making me a deep sea fisherman failed, he devised a new plan to develop in me a love of boating. He decided to keep out of the big waves and boat within sight of land. In this way I was able to go boating and keep my breakfast down. We now spent our time trolling the channels and exploring the islands. This scheme worked well until one day my parents decided to check out an area they had heard of called Shark River.
Shark River is a wide yet shallow channel between two islands in the Florida Keys. Once there, we saw sharks everywhere. They were readily visible in the clear water, gliding along sandy paths through fields of seaweed just a foot or so below the surface. Still the consummate fisherman, my dad saw an opportunity. He decided we were going to catch the sharks. First, he baited a hook and threw it just in front of the sharks as the boat idled along the sandy paths. The sharks, however, were not interested. Next, he tried the gaff – a sharp metal hook on the end of a pole used to skewer hooked fish and pull them into the boat. The water being so shallow, my dad could lean over the side of the boat and almost gaff them, but alas, the sharks were a bit too quick. Finally, both of my parents decided they would snag the sharks using fishing nets. So while they ran from side to side trying to net the sharks, the boat’s steering wheel was left unattended. Needless to say, in short order the boat was grounded in shark infested waters.
Without missing a beat, my dad threw me a rope and ordered me overboard to extricate the boat from the sandbar. At first I assumed he was joking, but low and behold, that was not the case. In fact, after a few choice words it became painfully clear that if I did not join the sharks with my rope, I would not be sitting down for the foreseeable future – captain’s orders. So, I did indeed go swimming with the sharks. I did eventually pull the boat into deeper waters so we could be on our way. However, the final result of this traumatic memory is that I no longer care to even wade in the ocean.
I do have a few good memories of boating. For instance, we would occasionally visit the deserted mangrove islands that dot the Florida coast. I would spend hours exploring the islands, collecting seashells, and having a picnic with my family. I would image myself a pirate searching for buried treasure or an explorer discovering a new land. Most of all, I loved being on an island with just my family.
As I said, once I had my own kids I began reflecting on my childhood and realized that memories can be a double edged sword. For better or worse, childhood memories last forever. So as summer approaches and plans are made, learn from my experience and think about your family when making decisions. Be wise and make sure to include activities that will please everyone while building happy, lifelong memories for the whole family.
Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell is a National Board Certified Teacher and a freelance writer. If you have any questions or comments, please contact Dr. Maxwell at firstname.lastname@example.org.