What Our Childhood Memories Reveal About Us


What you make of your childhood makes you, I believe.  Memories act as markers for our lives, and our first ones often reveal a lot about how we see the world.  One of my first vivid memories involves a small house I lived in at the age of three or four.  We lived in Colorado at the time and as my parents attended graduate school, were quite poor.  I would walk up and down the block and once knocked on a neighbor’s door to see if she had any children.  I remember her house as pink and her hair as brown laced with silver.  She had no children and memoryclearly lived alone.

Looking past her, I saw an immaculate house with an enormous doll collection.  She noticed my interest and let me in to see.  She was quite stern about my not touching any of the hundreds of dolls that lined her walls.  All of them were of the porcelain variety with old fashioned dresses and long, wavy hair.  I do not remember staying long or visiting more than that once.  But I do remember the feeling of being surrounded by toys, beautiful toys.  I didn’t covet hers, though I could not figure out why an adult would have so many dolls.

And if my memories serve, I felt both utter lack and a desire to give those dolls to all the lonely little girls like me, who had no memoriesbeautiful ones of their own.

In that moment of my childhood, I see already the tendency to turn my emotions outward, to compensate the world, imagining everyone else to feel lack as I did at that moment.

I was three and already a misguided empath.

Years later, I read The Birth Order Book, by Dr. Kevin Leman.  In it he suggests that we ask our potential mates about their first memories because they reveal so much about their perceptions of the world around them.  Instead, however, I suggest that instead of disqualifying potential mates based on their first memories (though in some cases, that might be good advice), we learn to decipher our own metaphors.  As you look through your first selection of memories in an attempt to learn about who you are with reference to who you were then, keep in mind these suggestions about how to interpret your own memories:

  1. What is the setting of your childhood? I remember endless sidewalks.  I wandered far and wide when I was a child.  Of course, times were a bit different then.  Early years held sunny days, but from the ages four to six, during which I was ill often and lonely, clouds haunt the sky.  In truth, I am a bit of a wanderer, rarely settling down in one place for more than a few years.  My outlook is sometimes sunny and sometimes I struggle with a more depressive viewpoint
  2. Who is with you and is it good? My earliest friend was a young Asian boy.  I loved him dearly.  Later, I realized that my first boyfriend was also Asian and that I have always had close Asian friends.  I imprinted young and still to this day have friends from many cultures.   I used this as a writing exercise once, and a student began writing of his early memories in an abandoned playground.  He could remember no friends, though he must have had some playmates.  However, his loneliness had followed him into adulthood.  He still felt as alone as he did on that playground.memory
  3. What emotions do you feel? I am always surprised by the strength of my childhood emotions. Even so, it took me some time to understand how deeply my own children felt at the various events in their lives.  If you have far more sad or angry emotional memories than happy ones, it could be that resolving those can help alleviate the current sadness and anger.  A friend of mine continually relates her painful memories of a childhood with a difficult father.  As I watch her wrestle with self-worth now, I find myself praying for the little girl she once was.

Ok, so I remember.  Now what?

If you find yourself with a file folder filled with happy memories, give praise to God.  You have a gift that you will pass on to future generations.  If you have a sheaf of not so good memories, don’t despair.  The brain is plastic, and those neural pathways you formed can be rerouted through a variety of methods.  For me, rerouting those deeply cut grooves in my mind requires diligence and grace.  I ask Jesus regularly to walk with me on the endless sidewalks of my childhood.  He has been so gracious to provide insight and companionship to my lonely little heart.

The sidewalks remain, but Jesus, who was and is, and is to come, walks them by my side. 

I know now what I didn’t know then.  I am never alone.  The lover of my soul, at three, at five, at forty-eight walks with me down every road.  Now when I remember those sidewalks, I always see Him there with me, and the clouds, too, have given way to the sun.

Invite Him in to the youngest places in your heart.  He was and is already there in truth.  It is up to you to discover His heart for your childhood. It’s not too late!

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which isand which wasand which is to come, the Almighty. Revelation 1:8


17 Replies to “What Our Childhood Memories Reveal About Us”

  1. Good one Poema Chronicles. It took me some old memories. Thanks for sharing..!

  2. Interesting. I never thought about this before, thanks for making me think.

  3. I’m very glad that I’m married to a husband of like mind when it comes to certain things. For instance, he and I both feel that the memories that we have of our parents and have of our own selves that we don’t like… we have the power to change them for our future and our children’s future. Our memories greatly influence how we parent our children. They remind us to teach our children to hit things off at the pass before our kids go through it. This is a great reminder. Thanks!

  4. This is a powerful post. Inviting Christ to join us in our childhood (yes, He was there, but to see it) is very comforting. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Interesting perspective and yes he is the lover of our souls and he is with us every step of the way 🙂

  6. so good. So glad our brains can change.

  7. Very powerful to invite Jesus into the good and bad memories. Thanks for writing about this.

  8. This was very interesting. I never knew there would be a connection between my earliest memories and my adult tendencies. I can see it now. Luckily I remember happy, fun times with many people around me. God is always with us and that is a good promise to fall back on, especially if you’re memories weren’t as happy.

  9. I have literally never thought of this until now. Thanks for bringing such an interesting thought to light! Praise the Lord for the wonderful childhood I had. I know others have a lot more to struggle with in this area than I have. I thank God for placing me in the family that he did!

  10. Oh I loved this post. I am a wanderer myself, I used to make friends with people of all kinds multiple streets down my home especially older women in my childhood and to this day I can connect more with older ladies 🙂

    I love what you wrote about Jesus walking with us no matter through our lonely sidewalks.
    Thank you ,Alice

    Diana (http://dianasdiaries.com)

  11. This is definitely some food for thought! I have never thought about it like this before.

  12. I have never thought about our childhood memories in this way. I have so many good memories!

  13. wow, i never knew this before, never thought of my child hood memories at all

  14. I love this! Only God can reach into the past and remake the things that formed us, making all things new! Thanks for this vivid post! – Amy

  15. jesusglitter says: Reply

    Sometimes it is painful to go back, but in understanding the past we can move forward to the present and our future. Thank You for reminding me how gracious God has been to me.

  16. Personally, my childhood memories are filled with the things horror movies are made of. Beaten at age 3. And it goes from there. I will however, revisit those times and ask Jesus to go with me. Thank you for this post. Looks to be life changing.

  17. susanhomeschooling says: Reply

    I have many happy childhood memories. I smiled just now as I read your post. I’m thankful that my upbringing was stable.

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