Ask the grumpies: Fondest childhood memories influenced by parents

First Gen American asked:

On a related note…what are your fondest childhood memories that your parents influenced.

For some reason, my first thoughts are all negative memories.  (Getting sunburn while camping.  Though I do have a fond memory of my first soft-serve ice cream from the same camping trip.  Yum!)

Let’s see… my mom read to me every night until I was almost a teenager.  I went on road trips when I was little with my dad as we drove across country to move.  We’d stop places and see the sights.  My dad would make breakfast on weekends, like crepes or eggs.  My mom would take us to the library every weekend.

#2: I remember my parents reading a lot.  And I remember greeting my dad when he came home from work (when I was little) by running to meet him.  I dunno.  I mean, my family was pretty good but it’s also hard to come up with an answer to this question.

What are your favorite parent-influenced memories?

15 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: Fondest childhood memories influenced by parents”

  1. Debbie M Says:

    I have the perfect mom for an introverted, perfectionistic, socially backward cry baby (me). She has millions of books, took us to the library regularly, and read the books we picked so we could talk to her about them. I remember them taking away my eraser at school because I would try to make everything perfect and wouldn’t finish–boy, did I hate that. But I never even knew you could make straight A’s until the 4th grade, so I totally escaped that thing where kids are expected to make straight A’s. (And I’m not even a perfectionist anymore.) I never dated in high school, and my mom would proudly tell people that girls are more mature than boys at that age, so of course all the boys were too immature for me. No pressure at all!! And when I would come home crying about something, she would listen, and if it was about something I had done she would ask me if I tried my hardest (I would always say yes and feel yes even though later I would realize I probably could have tried harder) and then she would say that’s good enough, and then I would always get a big hug. (I didn’t even know skinny people could be moms until I started babysitting because how good could their hugs really be? But then I dated mostly skinny men, so I now know the answer is pretty darn good.)

    She also got me into the Girl Scouts, which was awesome. And she taught me embroidery at an unbelievably young age (6?). She would get my knots out for me (yikes! so patient!). I’m still unafraid of needle arts.

    My dad was mostly a workaholic. As an adult, I now know that he wants for us whatever would most make us happy, which is the best thing a parent can want. He did teach me to dive, even though I thought it was scary at first, and he threw us around in the swimming pool. In fact, he always made sure that wherever we lived (we moved A LOT), we always had a swimming pool (in the apartment complex), so we always had something to do in the summer. And in high school he took me to tour a bunch of colleges–some in Chicago (where his parents lived) and some on the east coast. That was a great tour–I decided against anything in Chicago (learning that my grandma would probably introduce me to a bunch of nice Jewish* boys) and against MIT (which really is for people who like engineering) but made me pro Harvard (they had milk and cookies every Sunday night) and the college I picked (they got off all the Jewish* holidays, had a 50:50 male/female ratio, and most students lived on campus–rather than some rich neighborhood I couldn’t get to without a car).

    Both parents are story tellers, which I love. And they both refuse to understand the concepts of too much chocolate or too much cheese. Speaking of which, there are plenty of good memories about food and holidays. One year we both got bikes and toyboxes–all of which had to be assembled by them overnight. They didn’t get to bed until 5 in the morning. And there we are at 6 am telling them “Santa came!* Santa came!” It was unbelievable how they could not be excited about that.

    * My mom was Episcopalian and my dad was Jewish. So we kids were Episcopalian until we all converted to Judaism when I was ten. We still got to celebrate Christmas (I loved decorating the tree) at Grandma’s house, so that was good.

    • crazy grad mama Says:

      My mother also taught me embroidery at a young age – I’m still amazed that she was willing to give a 5-year-old a needle! As far as I know, I never injured myself or anyone else, although I do remember getting some emphatic instruction about not eating while sewing.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Your mom sounds awesome, and in some ways like #2’s mom.

  2. Ms. Mills Says:

    When I was a kid my dad was in the submarine service/US Navy, back in the 60s. He left twice a year for 3 month cruises of the Arctic Ocean and spying on the Soviets and chasing their submarines. Communication was via the twenty-five word “family gram.” I remember my mother and my brother and I trying to be creative and informative with these highly censored documents. Sometimes we would receive a recorded cassette tape from my father, but it was rarely anymore interesting than the family grams. The father-daughter relationship just never developed, largely due to his silence and his absence. My mother put this man up on a pedestal and required us to worship him. It was ugly when he fell off. My brother and I did develop the habit of leaving (every two years or so) and that habit has been a very tough one to break.

  3. becca Says:

    Most memories of my mother a pretty non-distinct; we read books and played games before bed so many times they all blur. But of course I have a very warm and fuzzy feeling associated with them. I do remember her telling me stories about her childhood, and about what she got all her girl scout badges for.
    I also remember several specific Christmases/birthdays, including one year where my parents managed to sneak all the presents into my bedroom before I woke up, so I was surrounded by presents. I remember going out to eat for special occasions, and the cinnamon ice cream at the fancy French place and the Saganaki in Greektown and the many bruschettas at the Italian place that became our favorite.

    I also have a lot of memories of specific conversations with my father. One about how perception varied between people, and we could never get into another person’s head perfectly (I suspect this conversation was shortly after my father read Oliver Sack’s book the Island of the Colorblind), and about color perception. “All communication is a miracle”, as my Dad put it. I remember another one, very frustrating at the time, about models and whether they were supposed to be accurate or informative (I argued accurate, he argued informative). That one may have underpinned a lot of how I think about science and knowledge building generally. And one when we were on one of our last family road trip vacations, where I was staring out at one of the great lakes (not sure if it was Michigan or Huron or Superior- we saw all three that trip) and he asked me what I was doing and I said “feeling the wind”. And he told me how proud he was to have raised a daughter who could feel the wind. I thought it was silly or sappy at the time (I was a teenager), but now it’s… one of those moments that sticks with me.

  4. SP Says:

    It’s easier for my dad than my mom. Looking back, I get the idea that my my mom kept everything organized (shopping, cleaning, cooking) and my dad took on a lot of the day-to-day kid wrangling / keeping us out of trouble. Among other things, it is due to personality – my dad still is more of a big kid, my mom needs more time to herself.

    My dad made up “wendel” stories every night staring my stuffed monkey (google tells me it was “rutherford monkey” – you could put its finger in its nose,ears, or mouth) and his friend the polar bear. I don’t remember the polar bear’s name, but it was one of those stuffed “santa bears” who lost his hat and scarf at some point. “There once was a little brown monkey named wendel, who lived in a tree with sister named X, his parents, and his friend Y…” I think that he tells my niece & nephew these stories, but I haven’t heard one in a while. I bet he remembers the others names.

    Camping & the lake are another big one, although this centers more around cousins and family than parents specifically.

    It is less specific with my mom, but still positive memories.

  5. xykademiqz Says:

    I grew up with my parents, sister, and maternal grandparents. I have a lot of memories of my grandmother, with whom I spent a lot of time, mostly of her cooking and laughing and gossiping about people I never knew. She had red hair (in her youth, later dyed) and a lot of spunk. I have memories of grandpa doing crossword puzzles in his big armchair in our apartment in the city, or coming back after having picked mushrooms in the woods, which he then cut and dried before selling them (he was a retired pilot and later an airtraffic controller, but he enjoyed being outdoors and we spent summers in the country where he had grown up).

    I remember a lot of walks with my dad; when i was young, he invented this thing that he called the Fall Spirit. You are supposed to pay attention when the leaves are changing and catch the first falling leaf of the autumn season, then put it under your pillow, and the next day you’d get a small present from the Fall Spirit (so like a seasonal Tooth Fairy of sorts). I adored my dad when I was little. It turns out he was a great dad (to me), but a lousy husband.

    I have very few memories from my mother when I was young, and she’s always quiet and solemn in them; they did not have a good marriage, plus my younger sister had severe asthma so I think my mom was completely focused on keeping her alive. I only got to know my mom as I started college and as she left my dad; she’s actually very capable and energetic (read: pain in the butt), and she blossomed after the split; she married another man after a few years. I have memories of family vacations but I mostly remember the tension between the parents, as neither wanted to be there. (Weekends and vacations are anxiety producing in my adulthood.)

    I remember riding in a car with mom, dad (driving), and grandma, I was little, and I asked how people knew whether a baby was a boy or a girl. You could have heard a pin drop, then grandma chimed in with something like ‘girls are prettier.’ I remember thinking that they were lying, for I had seen a few babies and they all looked the same to me. But, by everyone’s reaction I could tell something fishy was going on, so I did not press it.

    While I think I had a good childhood overall and didn’t want for anything, I rarely go to visit my ancestral city. Too emotionally draining, plus I don’t appreciate being chastised for putting on weight (both mom and dad have always been svelte and good looking; probably the only thing they ever had in common).

    My warmest childhood memories are of my grandparents.

  6. crazy grad mama Says:

    My parents read to us every night until I was in high school. They alternated nights, each reading a different book. Classics like Dickens and Twain as well as fantasy like Tolkien. I think it really cemented my love of books, although one side effect was that I basically skipped reading “young adult” literature and went right to the good stuff when I could read it myself.

    We did a lot of outdoor activities, too. My dad got really into hiking for a while, so we’d go do these all-day hikes on the weekend as a family. One summer we spent a month camping (mostly in the rain) around New England. It’s funny because I wouldn’t have necessarily said I was having a good time in the moment, but I have really strong positive memories.

  7. First Gen American Says:

    Most of my happy memories are food related like stuffing myself with raspberries from the garden or peaches off the peach tree. Yeah, the food=love thing was strong in our household.

    The smell of my uncle’s wood stove during the holidays.

    My neighbor’s Doberman “Sly” who was a ferocious watchdog, but who’s owner knew I was lonely, so he trained his dog to let me pet him without biting my face off. It made me feel special that he was so mean to everyone else but nice to me.

    The random guy friend of my neighbor who took me swimming at a pond and I thought it was weird he was going to go by himself either way. He said if I waited for someone to do stuff with all the time I’d miss out on a lot of the life I want to live.

    My friend’s mom putting me on her daughter’s birthday cake and having “double birthday parties” because we were born on the same day but my mom never threw parties. I never got any presents from the other kids. they knew it was really the other girl’s party, but it was still nice.

    The Whistler…a guy who you’d see all over town, walking and whistling at people and saying hello with a big smile on his face. The kids would always go mad for the whistler. it was like spotting where’s waldo.

    Payday, when food was abundant. Mushroom Picking, yard saling, fishing. So much of it was about basic survival. Most of my memories are bad but the hardworking values were thoroughly instilled. It really was all work and no play. Even the play was usually some sort of foraging/scavenging type thing.

  8. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    My parents are both horrible toxic people, and I have only unpleasant memories of the role they played in my childhood.

    • delagar Says:

      Yes, this. I know I do have good memories of childhood, but each time I try to think about them, the horrible memories arrive first, and I flinch away and shut down.

  9. Omdg Says:

    When my dad took me ice skating on the weekends when I was 4. Snuggling in bed with my mom when she told me stories before bed.


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