Friday, October 12, 2012

Kids Remember More Than You Realize

Kids are aware of a great many things going on around them than most adults realize. Especially the unpleasant things. I'm often amazed by how quickly parents forget what it's like to be a child, in fact. Sometimes we need to take time out and remember that children are not miniature adults. Some of what you enjoy as a grownup does not necessarily correlate neatly with the needs and wants of a child. Sometimes we forget just what the world looked, smelled and tasted like to us as children. Other times, things simply get lost in the translation of our muddled memories. Memories which, if only properly recalled now that we're supposedly more "mature," might help us understand the antics of that screaming toddler in the corner. For instance: do you even remember what orange juice used to taste like when you were a child? I don't know about you, but I do! When I was a young lad, I can remember orange juice tasting extremely bitter and acidic. I wasn't very fond of it, but now I absolutely LOVE the beverage. It's so sweet and tart and, when properly chilled, can be quite the thirst quencher. But try telling that to a preschool aged David. He was having NONE of it!

So what happened, parents? How have you forgotten what things used to taste like to undeveloped, more selective taste buds? Why is it a mystery when your child refuses to eat or drink certain items? Have you forgotten how many of the foods you enjoy now actually used to taste vile back in the day? Here's a list of things I eat regularly now, but which used to be akin to Chinese water torture for me to consume back during my formative years:

1)  Onions.
2)  Peppers.
3)  Beef liver.
4)  Cod fish.
5)  All fish, actually.
6)  Spinach.
7)  Tomatoes.
8)  Celery.
9)  Swiss cheese.
10) Mustard.

Now, not only have these items since moved over to my "like" and "like very much" lists, but I've noticed certain other food items I always enjoyed have changed in taste as well. Milk, for instance, used to taste much creamier and wholesome to me as a child. Now it tastes rather bland, although I do still drink about a gallon of the stuff per week. Eggs as well. I can specifically remember the taste of a hard boiled egg being something akin to clay or maybe even "Play-Doh" when I was a kid. Now they taste like, well--eggs!

(Bear with me here. Needless to say it's rather difficult explaining something as subjective as taste with mere words.)

Although I don't have any children of my own I always wonder why more "big people" don't put themselves in the shoes of their own kids, so to speak. Try to remember what it was like when you were that young. If you recall, it's not that you were trying to be difficult to your parents on purpose. No. More likely it was because your parents were trying to make you eat something you really didn't like at all. Such as a bowl of soggy mushroom piss! (That's what spinach tasted like to me back then, btw)

Just keep sending more of these my way
and no one will get hurt.

Now why in the seven hells would you want your kids to eat soggy mushroom piss, I ask you? That's tantamount to child endangerment! So instead of fighting with the child and making things far more stressful than needs be, I suggest parents take a step back and regress a little into their childhood memories.

Or, can it be that you don't remember your childhoods all that well?

I'm often amazed when I talk to my friends about my childhood and they look at me funny, as if to say: Dude! How the hell do you even remember all that? And then it's my turn to look at them funny. What, I ask. How can you not?

Honestly, I'm being serious here. Think hard about it. Go backwards in time within your memories. Tell me: how far back can you go? What is your earliest memory as a child? Can you remember anything before the age of, say, two years old? That happens to be my threshold. I can recount many, many memories after that age. A veritable stream of them, in fact! But before that I can only remember certain things in fragments.

For instance, I remember . . .

My mother, my two brothers, and myself crammed into a single bed when mom moved out of her family's house to stay with my father's Dominican family in Queens. I was the oldest and so had to sleep on the outside, where I turned the night table lamp on because I was afraid of the dark. My father, annoyed, kept coming into the room to turn the lamp off. And when he left, I would turn it back on. This went on for about an hour (I was persistent!). I was not yet two at the time.


Just learning to walk and nudging the family dog with my shoe, and having the normally docile Cocker Spaniel get fed up and tug the sneaker off my foot with a sudden yank of her canines. I was so shocked. And then I cried.


Sticking my finger into a light socket at my grandmother's old house when I was around 16 months old and being mildly jolted. That outlet never worked again from that day forward. I recently told my aunt about this memory, and she said: "So that's what happened to that room? All this time -- it was you!"

This can't possibly end badly for me . . .


Sitting with my mom in a hospital waiting room. Some nurses came to get me, and I recall being very frightened as they carried me to a crib in a darkened room filled with other cribs. This memory is very hazy, but I recall a glowing, blinking red light next to the crib they were lowering me into. I screamed bloody hell! Many years later, it was revealed to me that I had to go in for special surgery when I was just 8 months old in order to remove some type of intestinal blockage. My memory's not from that day, but from a followup procedure a month or two later it would seem. I had to spend a few nights at the hospital, and was kept in a nursery with some other babies.

And there's many more such fragments where those came from. Not surprisingly, most of them center around some sort of shock or trauma which I think is fairly typical of early memories. Those are the only types that stick around for so long, I would imagine. The point is, I can recall how scary and confusing the world was at this age. I can also remember the solutions I would come up with for what my eyes were seeing. As a toddler, I used to think the sun was a yellow spider that woke up in the morning and crawled up the sky. No, seriously. Or that baby shampoo came from actual babies squeezed into a bottle (which explained why I would have a fit whenever my mom tried to wash my hair). I thought God lived in trees, and that the world was a flat piece of land with the Earth and Moon hanging in the sky above (I didn't know we actually lived on Earth until I was around five).

I remember all this. And, therefore, it doesn't surprise me at all whenever I see kids behaving in ways that are simply incomprehensible to adults. I understand that the world is a bizarre, scary, and altogether much different experience to a toddler than it is to an adult who already knows things. I don't like it when I see parents forcing "adult" type food on their children. The taste buds of a child are vastly different from those of a grownup. That's not to say you should give a kid only what he wants to eat. That way lies madness! But maybe you need to rethink that grilled trout with quinoa and asparagus plate you're serving to your four year old. Just because you like it doesn't mean she will.

I swear it by the old gods and the new, you shall rue
the day you fed me squash!

But most importantly, as with any social interaction in life, try to see things from the other person's point of view first before forcing your own down their throats. When it comes to children, just try to be them for a few seconds before throwing your hands up in frustration. Life is very confusing for the wee ones at that age. Cut them some slack once in a while.

And also, watch what you say and do around them. You might think they're too young to remember something, but as I just demonstrated, some kids process and retain way more than you realize. And if you don't believe me now, maybe you'll believe the therapist bills you'll be receiving in 10 to 15 years. Just something to think about.

Have fun, mommies and daddies!


  1. I do remember the world being very fragmented and confusing when I was young. Earliest firm memories were of snow in the winter of 62/63, so I would have been 2 1/2 then.

    I know what you mean about tastes. I remember how bitter beer and wine tasted in my early teens, but for some reason I was determined to get over that :)

    1. LOL, Ian! Great response. I'm sure it took a whole lot of determination on your part . . .

  2. I always liked mushroom piss - even as a child - and when I was pregnant for my first son, I remember eating Captain Crunch and spinach - with vinegar on top :D seriously.

    My first memory - or perhaps my oldest - was giving up my bottle, Mom said I wouldn't have to wear plastic pants - if I gave up the bottle. Yep, plastic pants were like pampers - back in my day - at least for a Mom. It kept the cloth from leaking...sort of. I also remember cutting my foot on a barbed wire, crawling underneath a fence--probably about 2-4 at the time. Of course it's harder for me to remember - cuz I'm soooo old.

    1. Pfft! Old? You run freaking half marathons! If that's old, then I'm ancient!!! :)

      But, yes, you're only confirming what I suspected already -- that the oldest memories we keep around are those involving some kind of trauma or other unpleasantness.

  3. Children are like sponges. Anything said or done, will be repeated or mimicked. I have memories that will sometimes come to me at random times, usually I can place them and remember, albeit vaguely, but then there are some memories that I have that I can't for the life of me, piece together and that drives me insane! -When we were growing up, my mom used to sit us down for dinner and she would cook "Yuca" -is a tropical root vegetable also called cassava. In Central America, where my dad is from, Yuca is all the rage. Well for us kids, it was gross. First, it looks like a potato. Trust me, it's anything but! So my mom would force us to eat it and wouldn't let us leave the table until our plate was clean. I stuffed many a "yuca" in my napkin for many years! lol

  4. David: I just have to clarify one point because I worked so hard to accomplish was a marathon - not a half...that was sooooo last year ;D I ran the full 26.2 on June 23rd in Bend, Oregon. And even medaled in my division...not that I'm bragging--wink--wink

  5. Yvonne -- yes, I do know what Yuca is. Never tried it, but I see it in the stores up here. NYC has quite the sizable Central American population. If you replace Yuca with eggplant, however, then I know exactly what you went through as a kid. *shudders*

    Ah -- my apologies, Kim! Thanks for the correction. I do remember that, actually. Yes, now that is indeed impressive. As much as I run, I would never be able to do a marathon. That's insane how far you've come to be able to pull off such a feat!

  6. I'm sure u could beat me in a race


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