Will your child remember all the details of your exciting trip to Disneyland when he was two? Perhaps not, but pack your bags anyway. Memories are waiting to be made.
Building memories one step at a time
During the early years of parenthood, it’s not uncommon to receive the well-meaning advice from others: “No point going on holiday. He won’t remember any of it” or “Why not save the money for her education? Enrichment classes, ballet lessons and preschool are very expensive these days”.
Now, we’re not saying they’re wrong. Far from it – their advice makes a lot of sense, and definitely contains truths you should keep in mind. Plus it’s inconvenient. You’ll find that most of your luggage is crammed full of baby essentials and emergency supplies, and your sightseeing schedules are built around their nap and meal times.
The fact is that most adults, when asked to think of their earliest memories, will probably not be able to remember any life events that happened before they started school, a phenomenon known as infantile amnesia. Studies have shown that, while young children can remember events from their very early childhood, most of these memories are ‘lost’ by the time they turn 10, thanks to the pace of brain development. In other words, it’s very likely that your child will not remember that awesome holiday in Disneyland that you brought him to when he was three, by the time he hits his teens.
And if that’s the case, then perhaps it isn’t worth it to splurge on a fortnight’s stay halfway around the world? Well, that may be true, but here’s a different perspective to consider.
The purpose of your holiday
Too many of us define our holidays by the airline we hotel we stay in, the sights we see, the foods we sample, the shops we conquer, and so on. How about if you view each vacation as a primary building block for your child’s future?
Your son may not remember that awesome ice cream sundae you shared when he was four, but he’ll remember, at seven, that you made ice cream faces with him at the camera. And because he remembers that, at thirteen, he just might remember that his dad was willing to make a ‘fool’ of himself in public, and find the courage within him to tryout for the school choir.
Likewise, your teenage daughter will probably have the foggiest of memories of every theme park ride you took her on when she was five. But, at eight, she may remember how you braved the crowds with her and queued for an hour just so she got a turn on that spinning saucer. And how she held onto your hand so tightly throughout the ride because she was afraid to fall off. By sixteen, she could very well have the confidence to entrust you with the details of her first date, her first love – because she knows you will be right by her side through the bumps in the road.
So, we say, pack your bags and plan your next family vacation! More than that, make it a regular event – say once every year? Don’t be idealistic or greedy and bite off more than you can chew. Don’t stress about all that can (and will) go ‘wrong’.
Cherish every moment of your holiday. Know that, while your child may ever remember these specific sights or sounds, they’ll remember what mattered most to them at that time. And that could very well be just the fact that Daddy or Mummy hugged them close and held them tight the whole time they took their first train ride, and how they knew, in that instant, that that was the safest place to be.
By Dorothea Chow