The Smell of Victory

It’s funny what our kids remember about their childhoods.  Their memories are distinct and individualized, and some of their most significant memorable moments didn’t even register with me at the time.  As my children have gotten older they have revealed some past experiences with lasting memories that I wish I had known about sooner.  Have you ever asked your children what they remember most about their homeschooling times or other childhood events?

I was talking to my son, Josh, recently and he was reminiscing about his favorite childhood toys.  He spoke fondly of his Creepy Jake makes Creepy Crawlers Crawler machine, and I do remember him spending hours creating various colors and combinations of wiggly creatures.  I knew that Josh loved doing experiments and mixing colors, although since he was colorblind I’m not sure what the colors looked like to him.  I understood the thrill of potential danger as the light bulb heated up to cook the slimy liquid into a wiggly solid.  What always surprised me, though, was that my sensory-avoidant son actually liked working with slippery, gluey goop that had a strong odor that Josh described as akin to the smell of a rubber sole on a sneaker.  Since Josh invested a great deal of time and effort smelling various objects to see which ones were aversive to him and which were “safe”, I asked him how he could tolerate that Creepy Crawler smell.  With a grin, he told me “Because the smell of Creepy Crawlers was the smell of victory!”  It represented another successful experiment and allowed Josh to experience the satisfaction of creating a rubber creepy crawler of his own design.  Victory made tolerating the smell worthwhile.

One of my daughter Beth’s significant memories is coming up with hiding places for herself and her siblings in case of emergencies.  Following the tragic murder of the young man who grew up next door to us and the events of the terrorist attacks on 9-11, Beth coped by trying to plan for contingencies.  Not only did Beth work with her siblings to discuss various spots to hide in our house, she made sure they enacted multiple practice runs just in case.  She coached her little sister on the importance of staying silent in her hiding place (a huge challenge for her) and even thought through where the pets could go to be safe.  We had emergency supply boxes in the basement in case of natural disasters, and Beth revealed even at her young age that she had a strong desire to care for and protect those around her and would respond with courage instead of fear when faced with a threat.

One memory that surprised me to learn was when my daughter Beckie shared an experience she had at a local art program.  Beckie has always been creative and enjoyed a variety of art mediums, so every Saturday morning we would trek to a local art college that offered classes for school-aged children.  Beckie seemed to love the activities, and attended classes on Saturday mornings for many years.  Recently she disclosed an experience that happened during an art class years ago.  Unbeknownst to me, a teacher had held up Beckie’s paper as an example of what NOT to do and displayed it to the entire class while lecturing them about following directions and paying attention to the assignment.  Poor happy-go-lucky Beckie was crushed and humiliated.  Since she has ADHD, attention to details and oral instructions have never been strengths, but until then she felt like she could be creative and express her free-spirited artistic nature.  This experience gave her a strong message to try harder to conform or risk being embarrassed publically.  And I didn’t find out about this until years later!

There are also memories we all share, like the time Beckie plopped drips of vanilla ice cream on our black dog and then proudly announced she had transformed him into a Dalmatian. We had obviously not studied genetics at that point in our homeschooling.  The dog, Shadow, is tied in to many childhood memories during our school days, since he and the kids grew up together.  Being the pet in a family with distractibility challenges Shadow had to work hard to get attention.  I can still picture him walking around with his big metal food bowl in his mouth, trotting nonchalantly around the house letting us all know he needed to be fed.  If that didn’t get the desired result quickly enough, he would drop the bowl and start banging it around in food dish hockey style until he was impossible to ignore.  School would come to a noisy halt until Shadow’s needs were adequately met.  It was a pretty effective method for the dog that refused to be forgotten at meal time.

I want to encourage you to take time to reflect on shared memories.  Allow each family member to share a particularly meaningful or memorable event from the past year.  In addition to the memories you have deliberately made, will there be incidental memories that have impacted your children?  We all want to know what are children are thinking about and how they are feeling.  Sometimes, just asking a few questions and sharing our own memories can open up conversations that otherwise might never happen.  Lead the way, Moms and Dads, and then enjoy listening to your children as they share funny, serious, or significant events that will give you a deeper insight into those children you love.

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