You ever feel like you spend so much time taking pictures of videos of a moment that you never really lived it?
I have. Plenty of times.
Living behind a lens, watching wonderful moments unfold, hurrying to capture them for all eternity, only to realize afterward that you never truly took part in it, not that way you really want to, not all in.
Each year around the little guy’s birthday, I take all the photos and videos from the year before and compile a memory video of the previous year. Luckily for me, he loves them, and frequently asks if he can watch them.
I’ve read that researchers found talking to your kids about experiences and things you’ve done and letting them talk about things they’ve done is a way to help make sure the memories of childhood don’t fade away into oblivion.
“Conversational style matters, because when children remember and talk about the past, they effectively relive the event—they fire the same neurons and reinforce the same connections” Nicholas Day writes in this account on Slate. “They are buttressing their memory of the event. And when parents scaffold their children’s stories—when they essentially tell the stories for their children, as a highly elaborative parent of a very young child would—they are reinforcing those same connections.”
Part of me hopes these videos will serve a similar purpose, reigniting memories of these experiences, reinforcing the memories in his mind so they don’t become dust in the proverbial wind.
It’s usually a pretty big undertaking to go through everything of the first year, and it was only now, as I made a “Year Three” video that I organized as I went along, dating and labeling each photo and video and putting them into month specific folders so that I’d know where everything was when it came time to make the video.
The first year was about ten minutes long. Year two was about 15.
Year Three proved to be a problem. The rough cut was an hour and nine minutes.
I’m not kidding.
Even with additional weeks of editing and cutting, I still only got it down to 49 minutes long before I had to give up, export it and be done for this year.
But it made me realize that I had a really big problem. And that problem is that I have/took way too many videos and photos. The year before I felt like I hadn’t taken enough and now I had footage and photos coming out of my ears!
So it was time to reevaluate.
I’m still going to make the annual videos. They’ve now become a tradition in our household. But the experience has made me realize just how unnecessary so much of what I captured was. Sure they were fun little moments, but as the images flickered past me on the screen, I realized how many were moments that the little guy was relishing while I just stood back and observed, rather than taking part the way he wanted me to, the way I should.
It’s not bad to take a photo of a good time to share the memory. But with photo and video cameras built in to every smartphone these days, it’s become increasingly easy to do nothing but. How many pictures of people’s meals do we see online? Would you really have taken photos of that dinner and pasted it into your photo album 20 years ago? I wouldn’t.
And that’s the point.
The ease at which we can capture moments has made it just as easy to lose focus on which moments are really worth capturing.
So I’ve made a resolution. A picture or small video to commemorate a really fun or memorable time/outing/event with the little guy or the whole family is one thing. But not a dozen. And not everything. Because let’s be real – I’d much rather be out there in the backyard or at the park running around with him and having fun than trying to get the perfect shot to remember it later.
Here’s hoping for more fun and a shorter video next year, but even more memories and experiences. 🙂
Every time our little guy learns something new, makes a new expression, says a new word, or just enjoys something in a way he never did before (splashing in puddles, apple picking, or just being pushed around the room in a cardboard box) it has filled our hearts with memories we will always cherish. When I watch him playing with mommy or running around our house, or laughing it up with Gramma and Grampa, I smile thinking of just how much joy he is experiencing and how these are the moments to hold in our memories.
It’s recently saddened me to come to the realization that these times we will remember so fondly, he won’t.
As we start looking to the future and think about what other needs we may have someday as our family grows, new locations, new housing, is at the top of that list. While it’s not immediate, it’s certainly a someday, as our current place was great for Meg and I, but as our family grows, our tiny space seems to shrink more and more.
That got me thinking about the various places that I had lived growing up, equating our current situation/house/neighborhood to what I remembered of the early residence my family had when my brother was born and I was three years old.
Then it began to dawn on me. That was at three years old and that’s the earliest I can remember…well, anything, really. Unfortunately, even that memory is spotty, remembering more just vague images of the surroundings and area through the eyes of a child. I don’t remember my brother being born. I don’t remember the apartment we lived in before that period of three-years old.
Of course, that led me to the inevitable conclusion that all of these wonderful memories we’re making, all these moments of enjoyment our little man is having each day, reacting to, communicating with us…it’s very unlikely he’ll remember any of it. And it just saddened me.
While I didn’t know it at the time, it’s an actual form of development known as Childhood Amnesia.
According to scientists, childhood amnesia (or infantile amnesia) is the term for our inability as adults to recall memories before the stage of 2-4 years old. During our first one to two years of life, scientists say that parts of our brain known as the limbic system holds what is called the hippocampus and amygdala (used in the storing of our memory) and are not fully developed at that point in our growth.
Researchers have found that sometimes children can recall memories from before the ages of 3 or 4, but that’s something they can accomplish while they are still children, and an ability that declines as the children age. It can vary from child to child, reportedly, as to when they start remembering. Sometimes it’s 2 year old, sometimes 3 1/2, other times 5 years old.
Days spent with no reference of time, of limitations – purely of emotion and the drive to do, to play, to enjoy and to love.
It seems a bit unfair to me that these wonderful, carefree times should go unremembered by a child. At these early ages, we as adults get to enjoy in the purest form of their joy and yet, they will not be able to do so themselves.
The researchers used 81 3-year-olds and their mothers who had volunteered in an earlier study on the development of memories in infants by the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development.
As mother talked with their child about six events (ranging from neutral events to positive events) that the child had recently experienced and were recorded doing so, asked to talk to their child as they normally would in any other situation.
In the years that followed, the researchers then made contact with the families again and asked the kids (at different ages, ranging from 5 to 9) to recall the events they talked about with their mothers when they were three. The age differences were so that the researchers could take note of what varied in each child along with how much they either remembered or had forgotten.
According to the MinnPost article, they found that “children 5, 6 and 7 years of age remembered a substantial percentage of events from the age of 3 years. In contrast, children 8 to 9 years of age had lost access to many of their memories of events from the same early age.”
That finding suggested that age 7 was the “inflection point” for childhood amnesia.
While that in itself is not groundbreaking or new information, the recent study is reportedly the first to demonstrate the finding using the recollections of the children.
The study also found that those children who remembered more details of the events discussed at three years old had mothers who had encouraged the child to elaborate on the memories as well as let the child steer the course of the conversation. The researchers say that encourages the child to participate in the give-and-take of the conversation as well as fill their recollection of the memory with their own content.
The MinnPost article goes on to point out that the study revealed the paradox that children between 5 and 7 recalled 65-72 percent of the events they talked about with their mothers at the age of three, but those children who ere 8-9 years old could recall only 35 percent of the events.
And while the older children remembered less of the events, what they did remember was in more detail. The researchers also say those older children were able to take perspective on the events by giving more evaluative information about them.
What the researchers believe this all suggests is that narrative abilities play a role in what is remembered. After seven years old, the language skills of a child have become stronger, which allows them to create a more elaborate narrative for each memory. That then helps the memory become more firmly established in their minds. Whereas at the younger ages, they don’t have much knowledge of the why, what, where and when that goes along with those memories, leaving many of them to be forgotten.