Friday, March 8, 2013

{family lab} a perfect day





When I was growing up,  I remember my family working a lot. Both of my parents worked full time and my grandmother lived with us for most of my childhood. Although the extra adult in the house was helpful and kept my brother and I out of daycare, it was also stressful at times as I wondered why I had so many adults telling me what to do (not easy for a head strong, autonomous kid). 

It seemed like we were on autopilot. Go to school, come home, have a snack, go play in the neighborhood, come home eat dinner, go to bed.

Maybe that is the idyllic childhood many wish they had still - but for me it seemed like there was not enough family connection time. Just a lot of wandering around the neighborhood getting into trouble. And I knew from observing other families that I had it good. Other kids' parents were alcoholics, hiding credit card bills from their spouses, divorced and dating, and sometimes just scary and mean. No one was setting the bar too high.

My very favorite memories from growing up are the simple days when my whole family was together.

One particular memory I cherish is a simple, non-eventful evening when I was about 9 years old. This might have been a satori moment (do you know this term? it is a moment, a flash in time, where you feel the truth and perfectness of the moment).

It had rained and we opened all the windows and turned on our attic fan which pulled the cool air from outside into our house in big, glorious gusts of wind. I had just taken a shower and was wearing a satiny long night gown while laying the couch, enjoying the breeze and watching, get ready for this... Solid Gold, my favorite show of my early childhood. Everyone was home, we had just eaten dinner and the grownups were cleaning up and getting ready for the 8 o'clock moment where we all watch TV together. In that moment, I felt so at peace and connected to my parents.

Today there is a lot of talk about free range parenting, and while I whole heartily support helping kids become independent and adventurous, I also believe in a strong (not oppressive) parental presence. So, when I had my kids, I knew that I did not want them to feel abandoned or tether-less. I wanted a strong and extremely close family structure. I want my kids to have the same feeling I had on the couch that rainy summer evening. And I wanted them to have it more than I did.


Write about a favorite type of day when you were a kid. Not necessarily a big day, like a birthday or holiday, maybe just an ordinary day where you felt safe and happy.

Try to include specifics about smells, colors, flavors and anything that will bring the memory alive.

If you want, share what you wrote and noticed in the comments.




Grab a notebook, video/audio recorder or laptop and interview your kids about their favorite days.

Ask them each to explain in detail what would be a favorite day. 

(My kids love to be interviewed - it is a technique I use a lot. Maybe it is the intense focus they get from me, or the seriousness of how I record what they share with me, I don't know. But it is very powerful.)


Share anything interesting that happens in this process.



11 comments:

  1. The most happiness in my childhood came from the sundays I shared with my parents and little sis on the patio after church. I would put on a record(lp), usually something by BZN and we'd play board games or just talk about anything and everything.By 4 o'clock we'd have lunch, usually a BBQ or chinese stir-fry out on the fire afterwhich we all retreated into our rooms to read or nap exept for my dad who would take a nap in his chair. This was our time to bond and share and explore. We still do this when we're together and to this day, we never eat Sunday lunch before 4!

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    1. love your description of your day, especially the naps and down time. perfect!

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  2. I think the happiest memory of my childhood was on a beach in Florida. We took a family vacation there to visit my grandmother when I was nine. My parents took us to a beach nearly every day. I remember sitting at the shore line as the water would rush in, up over my legs, then retreat again. I thought it was hilarious that the seat of my swimsuit was filling with sand. I loved jumping up and down over the small waves coming in.

    When I began thinking about this, I couldn't decide whether I really remembered jumping in those waves and having fun or if it was just something I felt because I had seen pictures of me doing it.

    Overall, I felt sad because I don't have a lot of great memories that stand out from my childhood. Even the trip to Florida that had some fun points was tarnished by my being grounded unjustly for a mistake.

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    1. your description of sitting on the shore is beautiful. i am sorry about not remembering more. maybe as you write and think about it more will bubble up. even just simple glimpses, like entering a warm house in winter or laying in bed listening the rain?

      and, yes! i often wonder if we really remember things or remember the photograph. or does the photograph keep the memory alive?

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    2. My husband and I are constantly amazed at some of the things our children remember from their early childhoods. We have wondered if they remember these things now, but will forget them later on or if their memories of these things have been reinforced through talking about them. Maybe our frequent reminiscing about these memories will keep them alive.

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  3. I remember one particular weekend in the fall when I was seven. We had just moved to Wisconsin that summer and all the leaves had fallen. My sister, brother, and I went exploring in the woods with my dad. The sounds of dried leaves and sticks crackling under my feet are the first things I think of when remembering our woods. We found a small animal skull and stayed out until dusk. I still remember walking into the warm house and settling down for dinner. Later after we had cleaned up we played connect four for hours at the kitchen table. I loved it when my parents played board games with us.

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    1. it is always the simple sensations we remember, isn't it?

      cosy seems to be a feeling we are all in constant search for.

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  4. Me and my sister where raised by my dad. I always associate my happy memories with music, he has a huge record collection and growing up there was always music playing in our house: Muddy Waters, Otis Redding, Long John Baldry, Tom Robinson. Sometimes my sister and I got to pick, we always choose Alvin and the Chipmunks :). When I was thinking about happy memories the ones that stand out most are the drives in our white citroen 2CV or deux-chevaux, going places or driving home. I can still remember how you always bumped while sitting in the back, how we had blankets because it could get cold, the old songs we sang along with and knew by heart. We lived in Belgium so we sometimes took trips to Holland, those where my favorite because it took a while to get there. We always stopped at a little café to eat and drink something. There was a Harley Davidson shop next to it and I just loved looking at all those beautiful motorcycles. For the rest of the day we would walk around and before we returned home my dad always bought some fresh fish he would make when we got home. I remember how the fish made our car smell salty, looking outside at the other cars passing and just feeling happy, with my sister sitting next to me and my dad at the wheel. The day my dad sold it, he cried, I didn't get it at the time but now I do, we made so many memories in that little car. We were happy kids laughing about silly jokes, sultry teenagers crying about broken hearts, there were naps, fights, laughter, moments of silence and of bursting into song together (that explains why I love the bus scene in Almost Famous so much). Now that I think about it, we grew up in that little car. Makes we wish we could take one last trip in it...

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    1. this is so beautiful. thank you for sharing. i found myself thinking about this scene a week later.

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  5. I don't recall any one day in particular but I think of lots of moments. Riding my bike alone through our neighborhood, getting bolder and going farther than I thought maybe I should, taking new routes, getting lost and finding my way back. I loved the independence. I remember early summer, walking through the neighborhood with my brothers, in the evenings, carrying a brown paper grocery bag and scissors, stealing a branch or two of lilac from every tree for a five block radius and bringing the paper sack full of those lilacs home to my mom. She loved them and can't you just recall that fragrance and close your eyes and breathe deep? I remember making houses - when I was very little at my Grammy's, in a corner, pilfering odd little items to make a bed, a desk, a kitchen. Later when she lived in a house with a huge attic, I made an "apartment" up there where I'd play with my brothers, or alone, for hours. Even later, as a teenager, we once had a barn with a towering loft and we cleaned it out and made it our house. Swallows built nests in the roof, and light filtered in sharp little streams through holes, falling through the dusty air onto the warm wide-planked wooden floor. That loft was the epitome of all my house-making.

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    1. love this so much. i hope you are saving this bit of writing in a journal. too good to be lost to the internet.

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