I went on line recently and the ad that took up most of the sign-on page was from Disney Parks. It read, “What memories will you make?” Well, I’m not a huge fan of Disneyland, and I’ve never been able to see what’s so great about standing in long lines for a long time in order to experience a relatively short ride. But this probably just tells you something about me… or my generation.
Anyway, I got to thinking about the matter of memory-making and the family. I’d like to suggest that at least three things contribute to family memory making: traditions, crises, spiritual encounters.
TRADITIONS – These are practices that we plan for — meant to honor a family member or remind us of important events in our family’s life. It includes the way we celebrate holidays and birthdays. Common, repetitive activity that children grow up expecting to happen, like going to church, watching certain movies or TV shows together, vacations, weekend chores or adventures…these kinds of things make memories. Certain cultural expectations that have to do with the way we entertain guests, attend sporting events, play table games and take vacations together, the list goes on and on. The bottom line is — a family bonds during comfortable times of doing stuff together. A lot of this, I would venture, we sort of fall into. But, a lot of memories from traditions may be missed without intentional planning.
CRISES – These are situations over which we often have little control. It might be the accident that results in a broken limb or, even, worse. It might be the loss of a pet, or relative or even a close family member, or moving to another neighborhood. Even good changes produce stress and rising stress levels produce lasting memories. Even more, the way in which family members react or respond to the stress has a powerful impact.
And then, there are major catastrophes like the infamous September eleventh attack in New York City. A stark, savage tragedy that captures national, even international, headlines and the attention of everyone – these are etched on our memory boards. For instance, I remember well what I was doing as a child of nine when I first heard the news of the December attack on Pearl Harbor. And I’ll never forget when an African friend came running up our front steps to tell us that President Kennedy had been shot.
SPIRITUAL ENCOUNTERS – Conversion experiences are the first things that come to mind. It’s true, if a child is very young when she consciously responds to God’s gift of faith and begins her spiritual journey, the memory may be lost. Rites of passage are important here. Different cultures have varying ways of celebrating the joys of spiritual growth in children. When a youngster turns 12 or 15 in Jewish or Hispanic households, spiritual practices produce vivid memories. Many speak with fondness of coming upon a parent on his knees praying, or reading his Bible, of family prayer around the table, or for young children at bed time. Here the blend of traditions with spiritual encounters weaves lasting memories into the fiber of children’s confidence in their future.
How does this resonate with you? We’ll wrap this topic up in our next entry, but in the meantime, we’d love to read your response.
Nancy Tichy, KidZ At Heart International author