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The Things They Remember...

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A new comment that just came in on the post about tandem feeding reminded me of a post I'd been meaning to write. What do our toddlers remember and how long do they remember it for?

I've heard stories of very young children talking about when they were born and I've usually written it off. After all, how could a two or three year old possibly remember their own birth?

But lately, I'm wondering.

When I first gave Elnora breast milk in a sippy more than a year after she'd been weaned, she took a drink, looked at me, and then chugged the bottle. That look had something in it...something that said "holy cow! I remember this stuff!"

Still, I wrote it off. "It just tastes good," I thought.

Then I pulled out her old gymini for Emmitt to start playing with. Elnora spotted and it made a beeline for that thing. She immediately lay down under it and pulled on a toy. When the star hanging from the top didn't immediately play music and light up, she looked at us. We turned it on, and she pulled on a toy again, setting the star to it's singing and light show jamboree.

Greg and I kind of looked at each other...Did she really remember a toy that she hadn't played with since she was six months old? Or was she just smart enough to figure it out again?

There have been several times now that we'll get a new toy out for Emmitt and before we do anything with it, she shows him how it works.

I have one memory from the age of two...it's of riding past the drunken sailors on the Pirates of the Caribbean in Disney world and then through the mouth of the whale. That flash is my earliest memory. Other than that, I don't think I remember anything prior to say the age of 5.

Nora doesn't talk, so I can't ask her things, but observing it has started to make me wonder if I'm writing toddlers off too easily. After all, I can remember things that happened a year or two ago, but I start to get fuzzy about things that happened three, five, ten or more years ago. Why would it be any different for a kid?

So enlighten me, those of you with children that spoke early. Any "proof" that your child remembered something from long ago? Have they told you stories that amazed you? Do they remember things like their birth, or a toy they haven't seen in years, or a person they haven't seen in forever?


  1. Blogger Ashley Chin | 2:41 PM |  

    Interesting post! My first memory is from age 2, and I also vaguely remember the Watergate trials on TV (my dad watched). I was 3 then. I'll have to ask my 4 year old if he has any "early" memories. My 2 year old doesn't talk well enough yet to determine!

  2. Blogger MKM | 4:18 PM |  

    I can't wait to ask my now 6 month old what she remembers. I have a stepson who is almost 12. When I entered his life he was 3 1/2 and he stopped pooping for a couple of weeks in protest of his inability to control things in his life (mom and dad splitting, the arrival of a new woman in his dad's life, when and how he got to visit his dad, etc.). It was a horrendous time for all of us. If I bring it up now he claims not to remember, but I can tell he is embarrassed about it so he must remember something.

    My own earliest memory is of lying on the baby scale in the doctor's office. I have no idea how old I was but I was small enough to fit on one of those scales!

    I wouldn't doubt that your daughter remembers quite a bit, especially those things that gave her a tremendous amount of pleasure, such as favorite toys or yummy booby juice! :-)

  3. Blogger Sarahbear | 4:51 PM |  

    My oldest son has only seen my brother a handful of times in his life. He came to stay with my husband and I when our son was about 7 months old and then saw him for maybe 10-15 minutes in passing when we happened to visit my mother at the same time.

    I'd say Ethan hasn't seen him since he was about 27 months old and he's going to be 5 in June. About 8 months ago my brother was being interviewed on a news program and I had set it to record on our DVR. I guess it auto-tuned on his television and he came to me and said 'Mommy, uncle Mike is on the TV again.'

    He's also only seen my husbands Aunt twice and remembered her this weekend when she was at my MIL's house.

  4. Anonymous Anonymous | 5:47 PM |  

    I remember the last night in our "old" house and I was 3 when we moved. I also remember a chimney fire our old house and I remember another time, a while before we moved, I was sitting on a chair in my room, and you konw the yellow neck from those tupperware animals? The giraffe neck? I had it in my mouth and I fell and it got shoved down my throat, I was about 2. I could go on. I definately remember all kinds of things. I can't think of anything that my kids have said that they remember off the top of my head though.

    A little girl I used to babysit used to tell her mom about the day she was born all of the time and also about how she picked her mom out and came to her "because she knew she had a lot of love to give." She started to tell that story when she was about 3 or 4.

    I totally believe kids remember things, even their births. If you ever get a chance, pick up the book "Babies remember birth" by David Chamberlain PhD.


  5. Blogger Carrie Willard | 5:03 AM |  

    My 6 year old told me the other day that he remembers the taste of breastmilk. (He weaned at 4 1/2 so it wasn't *that* ancient a memory!) Out of the blue he came up to me and said he remembered that it tasted like milk, but sweeter.

  6. Blogger * | 6:33 AM |  

    I just read an article about children and memories. It said that babies do have memories, but a much smaller range than adults. E.g. they will remember and forget stuff in a 24-hour period. From about 6mos-2years it's about a year or so. (I'm sure there are exceptions to this, as with all things.)

    I know my son remembered stuff from at least when he was 1 year old because of the way he responded and acted. He'd meet someone once, not see them for months and then the first thing he would do when seeing them again would be to imitate something unusual they had done.

    I always found it odd that my earliest memory is when I was quite "old" by memory standards. (Made me wonder if I was blocking stuff out!) I thought it was particularly odd since I had an exceptional memory (until college, that is).

  7. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:43 AM |  

    The earliest memory I have that I know the exact date on is when my little brother came home from the hospital. I was 2 1/2. I have other memories around that time...staying at my grandma's (when he was being born) and wanting to see my mom. I also remember climbing out of the crib--which my mom tells me was before said brother was born.

    Oh...I do also recall chewing on the crib and a wooden coffee table. Mom said I did that when I was teething. I just remember it being veeeery satisfying. :p

    So I do think kids remember more than we give them credit for. Just by the time we're old enough to be having them, we've crammed our brains full of other mindless details that push earlier stuff into the corner. :)

  8. Anonymous Anonymous | 10:29 AM |  

    My daughter is almost 3. She has been speaking in short sentences since she was about 11 months and now goes on and on in monologues. When i asked her what it was like in my tummy she said.
    DD - It was colors mom.
    ME - Colors?
    DD - Yeah it was all red and pink with a little blue and white. And it was so hot and very very squishy like this. (she smashed her body into a little ball)
    Me - what else?
    DD - I was sticky stick stuck!
    and when that doctor took me out i wanted to bite him but he hold my neck.

    She was born via cs.

  9. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 11:27 AM |  

    See...I find this absolutely fascinating. Makes me wonder if a study has ever been done on memories with children that are early talkers.

    I know of moms that said their children would tell them about when they were born and would get details right that they never would have known. (One was a footling breech and talked about the doctor pulling her out by the feet...)

    I think part of this just stems from the frustation of my 28 month old still not talking. She has added about four words in the last month, but that puts us at about 15 words total. The longest sentance we've ever got out of her was "No meat!" when my dad tried to put lunch meat on her bun. ;) (She's a little vegetarian, won't hardly touch meat.)

    I just want to know what's going on in that little head of hers!

  10. Anonymous Anonymous | 5:54 AM |  

    I am 30, and I have several very vivid memories from before I was 4. I remember visiting my maternal grandfather when I was 2. He died when I was 3. I remember sitting in his lap and him explaining to me about his colostomy bag and how I had to be careful of it and I thought it was so strange that he went to the bathroom in a bag hanging out of his side. I also remember their house and can describe the layout in detail, as well as remembering the color and texture of the bedspread on the bed in the guest room where I took a nap.

    I also remember when my little brother was a little baby and I was 3 1/2. The baby was crying and mama was outside. She told me to stick my finger in the edge of his cloth diaper and see if he was wet. Nope. Not wet. I pulled back a BROWN finger.

    My earliest memory though, and no one believes that I really truely do remember this, is of when out house burned down around us in the middle of the night when I was 7 months old. I remember Mama running into my room. I was standing at the rail of my crib. She grabbed me, threw a blanket over my head, and ran out. And I remember she and I getting in her orange Chevette and going to the State Patrol office down the road for help. I remember my dad in his PJ bottoms and fire fighter boots (he was a volunteer) with the garden hose as we left. And I remember the details of the room Mama and I sat in, down to the color and texture of the fabric covering the chair we sat in, at the State Patrol office.

  11. Anonymous Anonymous | 6:30 PM |  

    My son was an early talker. He started signing at 6 months and was speaking three words sentences by a year old. For his first Easter we put M&M's in the eggs we hid. A year later, we did stickers (he was compelled to eat ALL of the M&M's the year before). Every time he found an egg with stickers he would throw it and say, "Where are the M&M's?" We were amazed! How could he remember that? It was a year ago!

    More recently, we visited Wes’ great grandmother. Her husband died (my Pop Pop) when I was four months pregnant with Wes. She had Pop Pop's van in the drive way for about a year after that. Wes was at her house once during that time, when he was seven months old. When we were there in January we all sat together one night and out of nowhere he asked where her van was. "You know, the one that was parked in the back?" We all nearly fell off of our chairs. It actually spooked me!

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