Think back to your youth, when you were eight or ten or twelve. What are some of your most vivid memories?
Please stare off into space for 30 seconds — don’t keep reading until you have at least two clear memories in your mind’s eye.
What events did you think of?
Did you remember the doldrums of homework, chores, or repetitive practice at a sport? Did you remember the countless days of effort that you invested trying to master a musical instrument? I would bet not: Daily life, and the tasks often repeated, leave no lasting impressions. Such regular events leave few memories and have little impact on a person’s development. It is the special, unusual moments that stand out vividly decades later — these are the memories that matter — these are the events that forge our psyche.
I remember simple but personally priceless events — I can clearly remember the day I learned to shoot a .22 rifle for the first time with my grandfather, as well as the first time I beat him in a 50 yard dash (I wonder today if he let me win, but I didn’t wonder back then!), and the evening when he and I caught a 7 lb trout at sunset — those are moments that I treasure. My wife still sees the sunny day in Galveston when her grandmother helped her bring an overflowing box of hermit crabs home from the beach and the perfect hour when Grandma pulled the car over and let her run wild through the irrigation sprinklers of a Kansas farm.
Fast forward to our roles as parents or grandparents today. We are all so busy with our regular daily lives. After working long days and sitting in traffic jams, we serve as taxi drivers for our sons and daughters as we rush them from school to practice or tutors, then back home for the never ending homework, dinners, and showers. All too often, we are unwilling to plan any unexpected, unusual event to complicate the already overflowing schedule. Busy parents are tired, both mentally and physically. If there is any energy left, it is often spent at the gym or meeting the amigos for a margarita at Ole’s.
But fond memories require the unusual — the perfect moments with your kids that leave those indelible impressions many decades later. “I’m too busy” or “I’m too tired” are simply signs of no forethought. There is always enough time for things that are important. All it takes is being optimistic, planning in advance, and committing to action.
Pull out your calendar — yes, I do mean right now — and pick a day next month. Write on that day that you will take a hike with your son or daughter to watch the sunset, or perhaps go watch airplanes land at the airport. Plan something simple, but different from the daily grind. Don’t tell your kid in advance, but make it happen.
Now, flip through the rest of the calendar and mark just five more days for events to-be-determined-and-planned. Six days out of 365 is manageable, no matter how busy-busy you are. The truth is that you have no idea what events will stick, so you must try multiple things. Don’t procrastinate. Kids grow up fast. It is more difficult to make great memories when they are 16 then when they are 8 or 12. Bring that smartphone along and always take a few pictures. Get the best one developed at Costco, framed, and put on the dresser. All part of Memory Making 101.
No one, lying on their death bed, ever wishes they had spent more time in the office. You won’t be the first that does. Don’t decide that you are too busy. If you decide to take the initiative, your kids will have a great number of treasured memories of mom, dad, and family life. Such little moments and treasured memories make a lasting difference because memories like this become the foundation for your kids’ life-long optimism, and optimism is the key ingredient to happiness.
I.M. Optimism Man
PS. After your six shared events over this next 12 months, plan at least six more each year — you will not regret it.