Among the most memorable things a child will experience is time spent with a parent or close relative in a bonding adventure. The adventure might be as quiet as a hike in a forest or around a lake. It might be as exhilarating as a ride down a zip-line. It might also be doing something challenging or intellectually stimulating—like climbing a mountain or or making something together. The operative word is “together.”
This is a personal recall on “memories and bonding”, I offer no research to back me up. 😉 Feel free to plug in your own memories as you read.
As I think back and try to pick out what made my own experiences memorable and bonding to another person, it seems that most of those times I was engaging with just one person, or a very small number of people—always people close to me. The experience was usually new to me, whether or not it was new to them. Though sometimes repeated and ongoing events are remembered fondly—like the summer Sunday picnics the family used to take.
Another quality that made things memorable was investment. There was an investment of time, of energy, of money sometimes, in the activity. Both parties gave something, though in my experience, usually the adult gave more 😉
Having said that, there were times when the adult was just a welcome spectator—as when my father gave up a Saturday of overtime work to come and watch me at a swimming meet. I had been to many swimming meets, but when my father showed up to one, it was a big deal!
Sometimes the “watcher” roles switched and the child was the onlooker—as when as a young child I was taken to watch my mother as an actress in a play, “The Mikado.” “Hey ! That’s my mom up there!”
Indispensable to the memory was focus on the togetherness of the activity.
All of us have done things that started out great, with generous intent, but just turned out wrong. Maybe we laughed at them as they happened. Maybe it took some time before we saw the humor in the minor disaster—the cake that collapsed in the middle that was supposed to be a Mother’s Day surprise, for example.
I often spent time with my father in his workshop. He would explain the tools and methods he was using and talk about different materials and how they were used. As our old Pontiac station-wagon was beginning to rust out, I decided to surprise my dad and fix a growing rust spot on the front fender. He was at work when I got out the tin-snips, sandpaper and wire brush and got to work. Getting down to bare metal took little time. It looked great—all shiny. All the rust was gone. The fender was ready to be repaired.
I was applying the fiberglass patch. What a mess! Fiberglass resin dripped down the fender. The fiberglass was wet and sticky and slumped into the hole I’d widened. I tried to fill the slump with more resin. It slumped and slid further. I added more hardener. This stopped the slide, but made the slump permanent. My father came home. He was a serious man. I worried he was going to see the mess I made and be angry. He looked at it nonchalantly. No expression at all, at first. “Oh, oh,” I thought. His face began to crack as he tried to hide his emotion. He couldn’t. He broke into a raucous laugh, slapped me on the back, and said “Well, you tried.”
At that, we both laughed.
So that’s my short take on what makes a fond memory. Yours may be different. It has elements of a new adventure, or an ongoing activity done together. It’s done one-on-one or very-few-on-one. An investment, at least of time or effort, is made by both. Failures are made into bonding experiences by laughter and showing love.
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