Close your eyes and think back to your earliest memories of childhood. What stands out the most? What memories and moments put a smile on your face?
When I close my eyes, I can almost smell the woodsmoke in the crisp fall air and hear the crunch of fallen leaves under my feet on one of the many nature walks I took as a child. When I hear the word "circus," I'm taken back to a time when I was a third of the size I am now, my father lying on his back and bouncing me on his feet as I held onto his outstretched hands for dear life. Laughter, lots and lots of laughter. My father smoothing my forehead with the palm of his hand, saying "smooth as a baby's behind," and my mother calling me "Lauren Bethy-Boo" in a sing-song voice. These memories are the result of simple moments in my childhood, but each has had a larger, lasting impact on me.
Susan Newman, PhD, a social psychologist, parenting expert and blogger for Psychology Today, helps parents make meaningful moments in their children's lives in her book, Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day. I connected with Dr. Newman on Twitter, and was immediately intrigued by the many parenting books she's written. Dr. Newman kindly sent two of her books to me to review, feeding my insatiable appetite for her parenting wisdom.
I'm blessed to be able to work from home with my son, but there are still times when I wonder if I could be doing more as a parent. Working with tight deadlines and juggling multiple projects, I often get bogged-down with work and forget to take a few moments to meaningfully connect with my son throughout the day. Newman's Little Things Long Remembered serves as a pocket manual, a guidebook, and an idea-starter for parents to meaningfully connect with their children in a big way. Whether you're juggling your child's extracurricular activities, or your work/household schedule makes it difficult to fit in meaningful moments, Little Things Long Remembered offers ideas for anywhere from 5 minutes to an entire weekend.
Eskimo kisses are just one example of a tradition my son will carry with him through adulthood, and he asks for eskimo kisses often! Each time I give him eskimo kisses, he admonishes me for doing it 'wrong'; Declan's eskimo kisses are carried out with an up-and-down motion, rather than your typical side-to-side nose-rubbing (I'm laughing as I type this because it's both absurd and something that's uniquely his). This is just a small example, but the impact is lasting. Another quick way I connect with Declan is in telling him that I love him in a special way. It began by me asking him, Guess what? And responding with I love you when he would respond with what? Now it's our thing. When I say guess what?, D responds with a huge grin and an often boisterous, I love you! It's all about the little things.
Little Things Long Remembered opens with Newman's list of cardinal rules, the most important of which is for parents not to "let too much time pass between 'little things.' Make one a day your absolute minimum" (5). I appreciate this rule greatly, as it's often easy to get lost in the day-to-day demands of work and managing schedules. Another of Newman's Cardinal Rules is about unplugging from electronics to pave the way for meaningful time (an addition since the book was first published in the 1990s). While many of Newman's suggestions are straightforward and simple, Little Things Long Remembered serves as a reminder that our children often find meaning in even the smallest moments.
Perhaps the best feature of Newman's book, apart from the fact that she provides over 500 ideas for memory making, is that it is designed to be flipped through. Looking to make the most of your weekend? Simply page through to the section with ideas for fun weekend family activities. Our favorite five-minute activity is Dr. Newman's Remember When? exercise. Declan began this just before his second birthday, asking my husband and myself, "Remember when I was a little boy?" and delighting in being regaled with our recounting of baby Declan's funniest moments.
If you want to amp-up your family time, find simple ways to make lasting memories with your children, or are just in need of suggestions to create family traditions, Dr. Susan Newman's Little Things Long Remembered is a must-read. You can check out Dr. Newman's additional parenting books on her website, susannewmanphd.com.