Those are the words I hear every time I share with people the latest cool thing I’ve done with my 17 month old. Be it hikes, zoo, museum trips, and most recently an almost two week trip to Disney World. “Why are you going to Disney World? She’ll never remember,” and the ever popular, “We’re waiting until our kid is 6 or 7, so they’ll remember.”
Poppycock I say. If YOU don’t want to take your kid on fun trips until they’re 6 or 7 because you can’t afford it, or because you yourself won’t enjoy it until they’re older, that’s valid. Completely valid. But what is accomplished by trying to convince parents like me that we’re wasting our time and money by trying to have a fun time? Children need varied and exciting experiences. Schedules are nice, but so is doing something new and fun without caring rather or not it’s forever etched in our child’s mind. Or we can just lock our kids in the basement until they’re five and can start remembering those fun times, either way.
I find this the weirdest juxtaposition. Read any parenting blog and you hear about how the conditions in the womb will affect the child’s entire life, how using CIO on a 4 month old will forever render them ruined (or not using it will forever render them needy, take your pick). So I can ruin my child by not doing the right thing before they’re even born, but when I try to do something that obviously makes her happy, it’s a futile and wasted endeavor? I can only make an effort to put a smile on her face once she’s old enough to remember that effort?
Obviously the people who say these things can’t mean them right? Are there really people out there who don’t take their toddlers to the zoo, don’t go on vacation, go enjoy nature or have a toddler tea party? Are the “they’ll never remembers” just people justifying not liking one subset of those things? Then say that. Tell me, “I don’t like Disney,” or, “I think zoos are smelly.” I never thought my vacation and free time activities were an indictment against anyone. When I say, “Aria loved meeting Mickey!” I’m not judging you for not taking your kid, but I sure feel shitty when it’s implied that I’m wasting time and money that could have been saved for better things later.
And it’s also worth noting that after taking my daughter to Disney World and Disneyland 3 times since she was 8 months old (maybe that’s judge-worthy), that I can see such a difference in how she reacts. On her first trip she loved the sights and sounds, but was pretty overwhelmed, when she went at 14 months, she squealed at all the characters and was entranced by the staff with bubble machines. At 17 months she knew what was coming before we even got in the gate. She remembered the buses, she sensed the excitement, and started yelling for Mickey (Mouse, mouse!) before we ever saw him. Will she remember that when she’s my age? Of course not, but it’s building experiences that will stack upon one another. That’s kind of how the brain works. There’s not some magic age where a switch flips and all of a sudden little humans are real humans capable of having meaningful experiences.
I don’t want to wait until she’s old enough “to remember” to do anything, because then I’ll always have an excuse not to do something. As seems to always be the moral of my posts, think about what you’re saying when you tell a new parent they’re doing it wrong. It’s fine to share what you feel about a situation (this time vacations), and it’s even better to share why. Simple statements meant to make the speaker feel superior, never the right decision.
All images courtesy of Travis Holland. Aria was paid in bananas for her modeling services.