The beauty of looking back

“Mama, what is my life?”

It’s not often we parents pause to reflect on the memorable events of our children’s lives. Today, on my daughter’s 4th birthday, I got that chance. It wasn’t something I thought to do on my own. I was caught up in planning a fairy princess party and the happy chaos of the day (tip: hold the cake platter with two hands…). No, the assignment came from her preschool teacher:

Send in a memorable event from each year of your child’s life. The preschool celebrates birthdays by having the child hold a globe and walk around a sun placed on the ground. Each time around, the teacher talks sweetly about how the child grew and the memorable event that happened.

Oh man. What the heck happened at age 1? 2? What was most memorable? At first it was hard. Then little moments started flashing in my mind, along with a smile or a tiny rush of joy, a feeling of awe or a tinge of grief. And random thoughts, like what would be most memorable for my daughter, if she could remember it.

What a gift: a push to pause and reflect, beyond vague sentiments of “How did my baby get to be 4 already?”

In my book, Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science, I talk about looking forward. “Envision baby all grown up” is a critical step for giving us parents the long-term perspective we need to guide our short-term decisions.

But it’s good to look back, too.

Even 4-year-olds think so. “Mama, what is my life?” my daughter asked a few weeks ago. Impressed, I fumbled around for a grand answer to such a grand question. “Your life is every day you’ve lived,” I said. “The things you do, the things you say. What you think, what you feel, who you love.”

“Oh,” she said. “Because Kristoff says, ‘Ice is my life.'”

Thank you, Frozen.

As you look back on your child’s life, what one memorable event per year would you pick?

Copyright Betty Udesen / Pear Press
Written by

Tracy Cutchlow

Tracy is the author of the international bestseller Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science, a public speaker, and a creator of places to speak and be heard. Sign up for her newsletter here.

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