Do Toddlers Have Memories?

BestFriends: Reunited

From almost birth, Fia spent the first 18 months with her friend Teddy. I wrote about how Courtney (Teddy’s mom) and I first connected back in Brooklyn, bonding over tortured writer husbands, sleep deprivation, and baby barf.  When I moved to LA, she was the only person I cried over when saying goodbye.

Fast forward to July. In a crazy twist of fate, Courtney’s husband’s TV show got picked up and they moved to LA. I couldn’t believe my luck. Naturally, they found a house 2 miles away from us. Teddy will go to Fia’s preschool. Courtney’s main priority was being close to me.  We are now seasoned screenwriter wives (Courtney is basically a “TV widow”) and know what the long hours entail.

Side note: We joke that it’s like being married to the Secretary of State. They can be called at all hours and often have to hop on planes or go into a studio at a moments notice. In fact, I never even wrote about this, but Phil had to leave me a day after Emmett was born and crank out a script for 2 days with a figurative gun to his head.  That’s one of the reasons we didn’t have a name for so long. It’s not world peace on the line, but in Hollywood they think it is. Or at least the drama seems just as great.

Anyway, back to memory. Courtney and I wondered if our babies—now toddlers—would remember each other. A third of their life had passed since they had been together.

I told Fia that Teddy was coming over. I asked if she remembered him.  “Yes, and Courtney too,” she said.  I wondered if that was just a good guess? Or if she had heard me saying Courtney’s name?

She was so excited about Teddy’s arrival she sat on the front steps waiting for him.  Out of the car he came. They ran up to each other and hugged. I swear it was a scene from “Sweet Home Alabama,” where Reese Witherspoon sees her childhood love Josh Lucas. That is, if Reese and Josh were toddlers.

It really did seem like Fia and Teddy remembered each other. Is that possible? They’ve been apart from 18 months to 2 years 7 months. According to an article in Parents, the answer is yes and no. And gets too complex for this blog, though it’s interesting, like, ie.. left-handers seem to remember earlier than right-handers.

On a non-scientific note though, this got me thinking what my earliest memory is/was. I have fuzzy/hazy memories of scenes. And I remember distinctly at the age of 7 having a near nervous breakdown when I thought a snapping turtle was after me in a lake. But specific memories? Not so much.

Do any of you have a memory bank back to those toddler years? I know the first few years shape us immensely. Knowing you were safe and loved are factors that affect you the rest of your life. But the memories themselves seem hard to conjure up. At least for me. Will be curious on your thoughts.

At Preschool Together


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  1. by Cassandra

    On August 3, 2012 at 11:18 am

    I bet she totally remembers him… Maybe not who he is exactly, but the impression or “feeling” of him?

  2. by Kim

    On August 4, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    My earliest is when I was 3. My mother suspects I remember that far because most of my middling years, from 8 to 15, was a haze of medical appointments and increasingly difficult challenges of growing up as the only child old enough to help care for my brother with muscular dystrophy. I have a feeling shes right, because my sister, who was the youngest, remembers less of the earlier years as she gets older.

  3. by Ann Barthel

    On August 4, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    My grandparents had a farm that was sold when I was three. I can remember my aunt calling to me and going in the screen door. She said,”I have something for you.” and took two dolls down off the top of the refrigerator beside the door. I knew they were mine and that I hadn’t seen them for a very long time. I had to be 2-and a half or just barely three which means the last time I saw the dolls was the year before, but I recognized them and knew they were mine.

  4. by Jill Cordes

    On August 7, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Memory certainly is an amazing thing with so many factors that can affect it as Kim pointed out. Thank you for your comments.

  5. by Courtney

    On August 14, 2012 at 9:57 am

    I think their brains might not actually remember each other in the sense that we do as adults, but I’m sure there’s a sense of familiarity and comfort that allows them to reconnect instantly. So sweet!

  6. by Shelly

    On August 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    My children are adults now, I sometimes ask them if they remember this or that. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t and sometimes they feel like they do but it’s probably because I have told them that story so many times. I have a few memories of infancy & pre-school age. My earliest memory is of me learning to walk and my older brother running through the room and knocking me down (says mom: because he was jealous of the attention I was getting) But I remember him doing that. I can still see the furniture and the coffee table I was pulling myself up on (verified by my mom) Another memory I have is crying to bust open a toy. You know those push pop toys? It’s a big clear ball with a wheel on each side, a long handle and baby pushes it. Inside of the clear ball are small, colored balls that “pop” when you push it. [picture of toy]
    I thought those were gumballs and wanted them. I also remember digging a piece of chewed up gum off of the sidewalk and putting it into my mouth; chewing & then swallowing. All together I have probably 5-10 toddler memories. I do believe toddlers have memories to a certain extent. I live 700 miles away from my daughter & grand kids. My heartache & fear was they would not remember me when I left each time so I would have to constantly re-new our relationship each time I visited. When the oldest was about 18 months old, I was in town & at my moms house. My daughter brought my grandson & when she opened the door, she set him down on the floor, he looked around the room at everyone there and instantly RAN into my arms shouting MOM MOM! (I am his “mom mom, I believe it’s an east coast grandparent name) Not once did either of my grandkids forget me or shy away from me when they were toddlers even when we went an entire year of not seeing each other (due to health problems) when they were about 1 1/2 & 2 1/2 yrs old. They are only 1 year apart in age.

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