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What Your Kids Will Really Remember About Their Childhood

Photograph by Twenty20

This past fall, along with 90,000 other Angelenos, my family started attending Rams football games. We sat through a 100-degree heat wave that had us all sunburnt and dehydrated. I encouraged and cajoled my kids, ages 6 and 9, through their waves of boredom and wanting to go home. I hid my own desire to leave, my own occasional boredom, and the heartbreak of every home team loss, knowing that however I reacted the kids would too.

My husband had wanted to get season tickets. “We need to have experiences and traditions,” he said. “That will shape the kid’s childhoods and their memories.” And so despite my own lack of desire to put on face paint and cheer for the any team, I knew it was important to him. And I wanted my kids to remember all the fun we’d have. Isn’t that what childhood memories are all about?

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One game day this past December, the Rams were at home against the Dolphins. After four years of a serious drought, LA was facing something we hadn’t seen in years. Winter. The skies opened up and it started to rain. And rain. And rain. The kids immediately turned to myself and to my husband and asked to leave. “Let’s see if it let’s up soon,” my husband suggested. “We’re already wet.” Ten minute later, we were in the middle of a downpour that lasted the next three hours.

That awful day in the rain, as it turned out, was our kid’s best worst day ever.

The kids complained for a while, asking to leave, and commenting that sitting watching football in the rain was just about the worst thing in the world. But my husband figured we were already wet, why not stay? And I sure as hell wasn’t going to let the kids know that the only person who wanted to leave more than they did, was me. I wanted them to get a little grit and if that meant sitting in the rain, so be it.

But, something fantastic happened shortly there after. I don’t know if it was during hour one or two of the rain storm, but somewhere in there my kids started to enjoy themselves. Once they realized we weren’t going to leave, they relaxed and had a good time.

We laughed at the score that had our team only needing seven touchdowns in the last two minutes to win the game. We ate water soaked snacks and giggled at the thought of eating ice cream in the rain. And we felt like heroes for being some of the last people in the stadium as the crowd thinned with each new drop of rain.

Now weeks later, my kids are still talking about our rainy day at the football game. The same jokes from that day still seem funny and we’ve recounted the story of “the worst day ever” dozens of times to anyone who will listen. That awful day in the rain, as it turned out, was our kid’s best worst day ever.

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Every time they talk about that day, I’m reminded of the fact that those best worst days are far more memorable than all the best days. As much as we want to shape our children’s childhoods with picture perfect memories, we’re not always able to do that.

And that’s a good thing.

Because what they’ll remember is how we handled those awful parties, poorly planned vacations, and Sundays spent watching football in the rain. The funny foibles of a family become the defining moments and memories of children’s childhoods.

Ask my kids how the Rams did this season and they’ll quickly answer, “Oh let me tell you about the game we watched in the rain. It was awful.” And then, with smiles on their faces, they’ll recount in detail each and every play.

I can’t say I love spending my Sundays in the rain, but I can’t wait for next season. We’re hoping the Rams win some more games, but not without a little struggle. If everything goes perfectly, I’m afraid my kids won’t remember a thing.

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