Get comfy…this is a longer-than-usual blog!

We all have particular memories we hold close to our hearts: bad memories for the lessons they’ve taught us and good ones for the way they still make us feel. Our history and more so the memories we choose to hold on to define us and shape who we are yet to become. The danger, of course, is getting stuck inside a memory; the key is to look inside without falling in.

I’m lucky; I had a great childhood with wonderful parents, but it was not without some bumps and scrapes. And now that I’m a mother, some of the memories that stand out for me are even more significant. Here are a few (good and bad) that I vow to learn from to make me a better mom.

Childhood Memory #1
My dad took me to every Care Bear movie made in the 80’s—it was our Daddy-Daughter date and one of my favourite memories. On one date in particular when I was about 5, we ordered the jumbo popcorn, ate the whole bucket and then I threw up my share back into the bucket. Dad asked I was ok, I said yes, so he stashed the bucket a few seats behind and we stayed to watch the rest of the movie. Only a dad would stay; a mom would whisk her baby out of the theatre and home to bed! And, I’m pretty sure I used my sleeve to wipe my mouth, ‘cuz Dad’s never have Kleenex.

Lesson to share: I will make an extra effort to create good memories and if possible avoid the typical mom overreaction in those not-so-serious situations.

Childhood Memory #2
I was 6 and dying for a Day-to-Night Barbie circa 1984; a business exec with a pink suede suit and a matching pink and white briefcase. Barbie’s suit reversed, transforming into an evening outfit. I coveted the doll for what seemed like forever, but Christmas and my January birthday were months away. Even though money was tight my mom took me to K-Mart and we bought it together. It was our little secret. And I didn’t have to do extra chores or be extra good. She was my favourite Barbie.

Lesson to share: Every now and then every kid deserves a gift just because, with no strings attached.

Childhood Memory #3
My fourth grade year was very busy, and rewarding. I was lead in the school play, awarded student of the year and invited to join the Performers, a competitive dance troop. Just as the school year was drawing to a close my teacher pulled me aside and told me I was being obnoxious and if I didn’t smarten up she would strip me of my award and put my understudy in the play. I was humiliated. I don’t remember specifics but I imagine my ego was a tad inflated. I know this wasn’t like me, but my teacher never questioned why I was acting out of character. I also know that during this time I was sleepwalking and having nightmares: dancing in my recital while reciting my lines while carrying the tray of rare rocks for my geology project. It’s likely my obnoxious behaviour stemmed from stress and overcompensating for my insecurities, and probably not knowing how to deal with my accomplishments.

Lesson to share: If Meebs is acting out of character I’ll get to the bottom of it before I address the behaviour. I’ll also encourage Meebs to be proud of her achievements but demonstrate ways to convey her pride in a healthy, respectful manner. 

Childhood Memory #4
I started my period when I was 10. I didn’t yet know what a period was so of course believed I was dying. I also didn’t want to worry my parents so for an entire day I just kept wadding up toilet paper in my underwear and then changing clothes when it inevitably leaked. Even once I told my mom, we never really had a heart-to-heart about puberty, and never about sex. I think this was a missed opportunity to develop the needed closeness and openness to carry us through the rocky teen years.   

Lesson to share: I’ll have the squirmy conversations with Meebs, as I mentioned in Sweet Surrender, it’s not about me! Experts now recommend starting discussions at age 5 and gradually become more detailed. I guess I better start rehearsing!

Childhood Memory #5
One Saturday morning when I was 12 a boy in my class called to inform me that my group of girlfriends no longer liked me and I was never to speak to them again. I kept a brave face, but I was hurt and ashamed. I never talked about it to anyone; somehow I thought I was somehow letting my parents down. I avoided being alone by asking to stay in at recess and requesting extra work from the teacher that I could do during lunch. Years later my mom told me that my teacher had called home to let them know what was going on, but since I never brought it up they didn’t want to pry. I really wish they had.

Lesson to share: Girls can be cruel! I’ll share my story before it has a chance to happen to Meebs. If she does find herself on either side of a conflict like this, she’ll know she can come to me; she is never alone. I’ll help her find a way to work through every situation.

Very few of us escape childhood completely unscathed. But as parents, by sharing our own painful histories, I think we can somehow minimize the hurt. Or at least open the lines of communication so our kids don’t have to suffer in silence. Overall, I feel the important thing is to create enough great memories that over time outshine the bad, causing them to fade like curtains in the sun.