I once heard that a child's most vivid memories are the ones that have the strongest emotion attached to them. Whether that emotion is really good or really bad, those are the ones they tend to hold on to.
Often my children will ask Dave and I to share with them a memory from our childhoods and I'm always amazed that some of the first memories to surface are usually the ones that have bad emotions attached, like when I fell off a bike, or when I hit a tree sliding down a snow hill or even when my brother threw a baseball and hit my eye and it looked like I had been punched. Thankfully, I don't have to dig very deep to find the good memories of hugs and kisses from my mom and dad, curling up with my sister to watch an old movie, going to the library with my mom, family vacations, New Year's Eve parties with family and friends or softball games on Sunday afternoons, but those don't always surface first. Sometimes I have to be purposeful about finding the good memories and focusing on them.
The same can be said for my girls who will be eight and six this summer. When they talk about the things they remember, they often bring up events like the time our brand new puppy was lost and we were out searching for her into the wee hours of the morning, or when my oldest was camping with my parents and became separated from the group or when my younger daughter hurt her finger while playing with a neighbor's little red wagon. Those memories have strong negative emotions attached to them, so I'm careful to make sure the girls remember the good that came from those events, too.
I love watching my girls' faces as they follow up the bad memory with the happy ending. They love telling how our lost puppy was found by a nice woman who called the Humane Society, how my oldest has such a good memory that she was able to recall the campsite number and found her way back without any tears and how our neighbor (who is a doctor) took care of the wounded finger and made my daughter feel very special in the process.
As a parent, I can't prevent all the unhappy moments my children will experience, but I can be purposeful about helping them create a happy ending. Even when there seems to be nothing positive about a circumstance, I encourage my daughters to look for something good. Whether it's through showing them how God provides the answer to our prayers, like He did when the puppy was found, or praising them for keeping their cool under stressful circumstance or encouraging them to be grateful for the help of a kind neighbor, there are countless ways to turn a painful memory into a positive one.
What about you? What's the very first memory that comes to mind from your childhood? Is it good or bad? Does it have a happy ending? If you'd like to share it, I'd love to hear it!