The first stage (the developmental years) intrigues me because I wonder how much I REALLY remember. My parents and grandparents were great about repeating stories of all the cute and funny things I did as a kid. As a result I have pictures in my head of where events took place, but I wonder if the memories are mine or if I created them.
In a comment from Wendy from Jollett etc. (memoir blog)
The developmental years of infancy to preschool age childhood. (from birth to about age 5)
A while back I presented the post Stages of Life for the Purpose of Memoir which promised a series of posts addressing each of those stages. In this first of the series we will discuss the earliest years from birth until the time when we begin school.
Some might even make an argument that the memories that help shape who we are could begin before birth while we are still in the womb. It is known that fetuses respond to various stimuli and that brain waves can be detected in the very early stages of fetal development. There are even those who suggest that we are conceived with collective genetic memories or instincts. Since both of these stances are highly debatable we will only mention these possibilities for consideration.
A greater case can be made for the influence of events experienced starting at the moment that we enter the world at birth. The emergent child with normal sensory faculties now becomes aware of the world around them. The infant is rapidly absorbing experiences and learning at what will probably be a faster pace of any time in life.
The bombarding assault of knowledge may be a hindrance to memory for most of us, yet there are some who have claimed to have memories starting at birth. This seems unlikely as does the claim of memories in the earliest weeks and months of babyhood. But still, the subtle influences of our environment and those who enter our lives can have an affect on who we will become and what we will believe as we grow into adulthood.
There is little doubt that the stories we hear from our parents and others settle into our psyches to become the basis of our memories of very early life. We absorb conversations around us attaching our own interpretations to them even when we don't understand what is being discussed. Connections that we make with our personal objects, the places we live, and experiences we have teach us lessons about the world and provide information for future applications.
How accurate are the memories of babyhood? If those memories can be corroborated by people who were there, most notably our parents, then the memories are quite possibly real memories if presented independently of stories we have heard previously. Most likely though we have at sometime in the past heard the stories and don't realize it.
Memories might be also confirmed by finding documentation that back up those memories. Photos or other recorded mediums that we discover later in life could be a good source. Old newspaper clippings or even historical documentaries that we view may revive memories that we have. Comparing when something happened to the memory we have can also be helpful.
I have many distinct memories that go back to when I was three years old and hazy recollections that may go back to my second year of life. I have dated these according to places I lived as a child, cars that my parents owned, and specific events that happened.
For example, I distinctly remember my sister and I playing in an old Hudson automobile. My parents got rid of that car prior to 1955--I turned four years old in January of 1955. I can recall going to Michigan for my aunt's funeral in 1955. I have several memories of a carnival tour my parents worked with their juggling act in 1955. The memories are not contiguous as a historical progression of time, but rather highlighted moments that stand out in my mind. As a child we have little concept of the flow of time so it makes sense that I cannot put the early memories the context of a linear progression of time. Even in later life this is sometimes the case.
There are many things that played a big role in shaping me to be who I am now. One that stands out was that my mother used to say, "You have a memory like an elephant." I liked hearing my mother say this and I believe this played a big role in reinforcing my ability to remember things. Later, this ability became a big help to me in school. Even now, though my memory isn't always the best, I do tend to remember a lot of details about certain things.
Also the constant exposure to show business instilled me with a desire to be in the entertainment business and led me to be interested in all things cultural. This interest influenced my play time in childhood and the types of jobs I pursued in adulthood. My dream aspirations in life as well as my dreams of sleep are often related to the entertainment profession.
Clearly, the words my parents reinforced me with and the things that impressed me in childhood made me who I am. Most of my memories seem to be related to these life-shaping influences. In a way, I am much the same now as I was when I was four years old. The biggest difference between then and now is that I know and remember more.
What do you remember from early childhood? Do you see any connection to what you became as an adult to how you were influenced as a baby? What do you see as being your biggest influences in your earliest stages of development? Can you remember or have you ever known anyone who remembers actually experiencing their own birth?