Notes from a memory keeper

Creating family memories

The baby years are so fleeting. Can we recapture those first precious months and years?

My baby turned 1 this week. My potentially last baby (do I need to decide just yet?) and I feel a desperate need to memorise her as she is right now: still a baby, still not quite walking, still babbling, still sweet and cute and totally wanting me, her mum, more than anyone else in the world.

Perhaps it’s that my 5-year-old started school this week, and then tells me basically nothing about it. Perhaps it’s the sleep deprivation from three nights with a coughing baby. Whatever … I’m feeling particularly sentimental. The other day I almost cried as I packed away her size 0 clothes. The last of the baby sizes! Normally I just give them away, easy as that; I’ve hidden them under the bed.

I can barely remember what my 5-year-old was like as a baby.  I remember how tired I was. I remember lots of crying (hers and mine). How can we forget moments that, at the time, feel like the most precious of our lives?

I asked my mum a few years back what I was like as a baby. Her reply of: “Um, just a typical baby I guess,” was not quite what I was looking for.

Us modern mums seem to be better memory keepers than our own were. We scrapbook, baby-book journal, and photograph every moment. My latest fave way to sort my photos and memories is using Smilebox – so cute. I feel the more I record, the more memories I might keep: like setting feathers in concrete so they don’t float away. The problem with memories though is they don’t always stay, even with a photo. When I look at some pics of my eldest as a baby, I can hardly recognise her.

I read an article recently about a mum who found her childrens’ old baby clothes held memories. When she held the clothes, she could feel the baby that once wore them. For another mum, the smell of a particular brand of baby wipes brings it all back. For me, it’s novels. Baby memories of my first wee girl seem to be attached to the terrible novel I was reading when she was in the neonatal ward: sitting in a leather recliner just reading and watching her, so tiny, swaddled in dozens of blankets with only her miniature face poking out; then the trashy chic-lit I was reading with my second bub, feeding her in the hospital bed and feeling amazed by her soft duckling hair and perfect wee fingernails.

Possibly, it’s simply that we need a context to help us remember. When I think about the pre-school years, it’s all a big tired, messy, noisy blur; but when I think about those single moments – the time we all danced in the lounge to Footloose with my laughing toddler in my arms, or watching my mum as she held her first grandchild for the very first time and cried – well, then it’s crystal clear.

methods of a memory keeper

  • Keep a notebook or journal about how you are finding parenting – the good and the bad.
  • Jot down cute things your children do and say into the back of your baby book or Plunket book.
  • Make a book, blog, album or video diary. Try one of these: scrapbooking resources from Creative Memories; online photobooks at; online scrapbooks at
  • Get the family involved: aunties, uncles and grandparents could give a photo with comments on the back about a special moment with your child.
  • Sentimental box: Keep all your special things together, such as maternity notes, scan photos/discs, baby’s birth cards from friends and family, fave newborn outfit or outfit that baby wore home from hospital, for example. (Make sure it is stored well though: paper and material things go mouldy very quickly if stored in a place with fluctuating temperatures, such as a garage.)

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