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A BLOG POST: The memory of a child is long?!

This post is from My Daddy Blog…

Last Sunday, like I always do, I left church during the last song to pick up Elias from the nursery. Crosspoint’s nursery wing is in a separate building from the auditorium. After I picked him up, Elias and I walked out the front door of the nursery wing, around the corner and up a few stairs.

“We going to see Mommy?” asked Elias, following the sidewalk back to the church.

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I was getting ready to answer him, but he didn’t give me the chance. Squeezing my hand, he said, “I got a timeout.”

“What?” I said.

“I gotta timeout!” He was pointing at something. But I couldn’t tell what he was pointing at.

“A timeout? Really?” Figuring that his nursery worker would have told me if Elias had gotten a timeout (do church nurseries even do timesouts? I’m not sure). He must be dreaming, I thought. But just in case, I questioned him some more.

“You gotta a timeout, Elias?”

“I got timeout,” he said, pointing again.

“Why did you get a timeout? What did you do?”

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He looked at me. “I crying.”

Still confused, I asked. “Who gave you this timeout, Elias?”

Grinning, he said, “Daddy did! Daddy gave me timeout!”

He was pointing again, and that time I could tell that his little finger was pointing at the wooden bench that is located outside one of the church entrance ways. And that’s when it dawned on me what he was referring to. Six or seven weeks earlier, Elias was having a rough morning and refused to go to the nursery. Rather than fighting it, we took him with us into the service. About three songs into the service, it was obvious that our plan wasn’t going to work. So as he was kicking and screaming, I carried him out of the auditorium and then out the church’s front door, hoping the fresh air might calm him down. It didn’t. Rather than simmering his heated temper, he slapped my face.

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“Elias,” I said, “We don’t hit Daddy. Mommy and Daddy don’t hit Elias and Elias is not allowed to hit Mommy and Daddy… ” (Blah… blah… blah… You know the routine, right?)

Rather than saying sorry and confessing his “hitting” unto me, he stared at me with “Oh yes we do” in his eyes.

Then he began slapping himself as if to say… “I’m hitting again. I’m hitting…”

This went on for a couple more minutes. And then, when I couldn’t get him calmed down, I set him down on the exact bench he’d pointed out and gave him a timeout (It was actually a “time-in,” since I stayed right there with him and talked him through it)…

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But he remembered it. Six or seven weeks had passed (at least! It could have been more) but Elias remembered it.

He’s two-and-a-half. And it happened once. ONCE.

The best part (or perhaps the saddest part) of his “remembering” this event was that… as he spewed off the details, at one point he started doing his “fake crying” routine. No tears. No real cry. Just sad pathetic looking facial expressions.

Obviously, that event was a bit of wake-up call. A child’s memory is long. Right now, even though I am convinced that Elias doesn’t pay attention to me, his brain is soaking up snapshots of memories, things that he might possibly remember later on.

It dawned on me that…

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How I talk to him matters.

How he sees me talking to Jessica matters.

How he witnesses me being angry or frustrated or impatient… it matters.

How I engage him matters…

How I listen and watch and respond matters…

And that’s overwhelming at times. I realize I can’t over-think it. But I must consider it. I can’t be complacent with it. I have to think about it.

Because he’s thinking about it (at least, some of it)…

 

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Comments read comments(9)
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jon mark

posted March 9, 2011 at 9:12 am


it’s amazing how much children can soak in! and yes the full meaning of that and what all they are soaking in, is a challenge. but i would NEVER trade that challenge for anything!



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Matthew Lyon

posted March 9, 2011 at 9:14 am


AND how naked he is in these baby pictures matters, but not until he’s goes the college and starts having girlfriends.



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Noelle

posted March 9, 2011 at 11:20 am


Memory and cognitive development is an interesting field. There is a lot of research and texts available on it. Though most adults don’t recall their earliest memories much before age 4, young children don’t walk around with amnesia until then. There’s something else about brain and language development that keeps us from holding onto those earliest memories. By the time he’s 10, he may not remember that specific time-out. He’ll still know the lesson. Everything sticks somewhere.



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Ben

posted March 9, 2011 at 3:25 pm


Boom. Excellent observation. I would imagine that principle extends to many other things. The students I lead are watching me and learning. Slightly disturbing, but very powerful if we think about the implications.

Thanks for sharing!



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Sam

posted March 9, 2011 at 3:57 pm


You gotta be careful what you say and do around little ones. I remember lots of stuff before age four. The first thing I clearly remember was my dad holding me and giving me a bottle one Sunday morning as he talked to a man after church. My mom said I was off the bottle before I turned one. I remember my first birthday party. I remember potty training. I remember a whole lot of stuff adults said and did around me that I didn’t understand then, but still remembered when I was old enough to understand.



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Jenn

posted March 10, 2011 at 12:42 am


You have the world’s cutest boy.



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Cara

posted March 10, 2011 at 9:44 am


So true! My daughter is 2.5, and I have many memories from that age, so I’ve been thinking about it even more recently. Some people have commented on posts I’ve written about how we are purposeful in our parenting because we know the things we say and do now are impacting her and will have a big impact on her future as well – others have said “I think you’re over-thinking this” but I disagree. I think being purposeful and aware of how even “little” one time things impact them is so important.



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