he moment your kids’ explicit memories start to form is the moment you really switch on to a different parenting mode.
he moment your kids’ explicit memories start to form is the moment you really switch on to a different parenting mode.

The art of making lasting memories with your kids

BEING a parent sometimes feels like an out-of-body experience where you're not sure if you're making your own memories or shaping someone else's.

It's something I became conscious of the moment our eldest daughter hit that age threshold - generally around three to six - where explicit memories begin to form. I wish someone had told us this before we booked an expensive family trip to Fiji right before her first birthday.

We had a great time and everything, but she won't remember how much fun she had watching her parents smash a couple mai tais in the brief windows between naps.

She won't remember the stomach bug that kept us up on the final night, flirting with the Fijian waiters in baby talk, or the beautiful village kava ceremony. Incidentally, I don't remember that either.

Her four-year-old twin sisters are just about to make that transition from the Men In Black "amnesia" zone, where you can literally say and do anything and they won't blame you for it in therapy in 20 years' time, to a situation in which you're little more than a character in the movie of their lives.

 

The moment your kids’ explicit memories start to form is the moment you really switch on to a different parenting mode
The moment your kids’ explicit memories start to form is the moment you really switch on to a different parenting mode

That's a pretty big role for someone that never aspired to be an actor and I'm really going to miss the good old days where you could do something completely irresponsible - like put them in one of those baby pens while you re-watch season one of the Sopranos - and they won't hold you to it for the rest of their lives. It's like our baby-omatic immunity has been revoked!

Now the pressure is on to make every moment with them meaningful, because that's apparently how memory is retained over long periods of time. There's this theory in psychology called the forgetting curve, and if I remember correctly it means you're more likely to chuck significant memories into the bank.

It's why you remember important stuff like family holidays, your first Happy Meal toy (Snoopy), or the time you saw Karate Kid at the movies as a six year old.

I remember the smell of the theatre, the trip to Pizza Hut afterwards, the promotional Mr Miyagi headband that came free with every large Pepsi.

 

If only parenting was as simple as wax on, wax off. Picture: The Karate Kid
If only parenting was as simple as wax on, wax off. Picture: The Karate Kid

 

I remember being so inspired by Daniel LaRusso's triumph over the Cobra Kai thugs I actually took up karate with a far less inspirational sensai for six very long and pointless years.

The Karate Kid was a rite-of-passage moment for me, up there with my bar mitzvah or learning to ride a bike. And so experiencing it with my daughter was a day I'd been looking forward to for a long time.

There's always a moment of trepidation when you revisit the movies of your childhood with your children, especially if they were made in the problematic '80s. But I'm pleased to report the Karate Kid holds up. They even cast a Japanese person in the role of a Japanese person, which was quite progressive for the time.

You never know either how a child of the 2000s is going to connect with a relic from the '80s - I'm talking about the film now, not me - but my daughter loved it so much she didn't ask for the iPad even once.

And as we watched Daniel Son's transition from a bullied outcast to a crane-kicking karate champion, my daughter engaged and completely enthralled the whole time, I realised there's few greater feelings as a parent than watching these memories form in real time.

Better luck next time forgetting curve. You're not stealing this one.

Darren Levin is a RendezView writer.

@darren_levin