Young children are still developing their brains, thus many of the early childhood experiences that we set up for them (while highly valuable for developing their brains) will not be remembered. Basically we put countless hours into an effort that vanishes as the children grow and forget everything we’ve worked so hard to teach them!
But recently a smile was brought to my face when my oldest (now 6yo) explained in detail to my youngest (4yo) how the earth rotates around the sun, while spinning, causing our day and night and seasons. It is not the fact that she knew this that made me smile, it was how she learnt it.
I was driving hearing this detailed explanation in the back seat and became curious at this sudden new found knowledge. I questioned how she knew all about this (expecting her to tell me about a project at school). She said someone told her, she couldn’t remember who, but they showed her with an orange in the dark (This made me smile) then she yelled in genuine surprise ‘MUM!… It was YOU!’
I had thought that momentary lesson (that happened many years prior) had long since passed and been forgotten without any real impact.
Years before, at the age of 3, my oldest had asked about day and night, and at that time I had an orange handy and explained as best I could by drawing us on the ‘earth’ (orange) and using a touch as the sun. She didn’t understand at the time (at 3yo I didn’t have any expectation that she would!) and as the years passed she repeatedly showed that she still didn’t understand the concept (this was of no real concern to me, it wasn’t in any means vital information until she wants to launch a rocket into space!).
The memory of that explication had been berried deep inside her brain until her sister asked the same question as she once had, and suddenly she could recall the entire experience, and this time she was older and understood.
Looking across the car and seeing her little sister was still confused, my (now expert) 6yo space explorer assured her little sister not to worry; when we got home she would get an orange and show her.
Upon the arrival home the explanation was modified (orange and lemon, no torch was handy) but the explanation was rather well informed (for a 6yo). It was not so well understood (by the 4yo who was still a bit puzzled by why the fruit was doing circles). I wonder if, in future years, my youngest will recall the moment where her big sister got out an orange and then suddenly make sense of it.
While sometimes it feels that the specific knowledge that we teach our tots is lost in an instant – the level at which our children are learning from us each day is extraordinary. With such delay (and so many variables) before the results show, this science is impossible to accurately measure.
That is why I take such joy from simple moments, like my daughter remembering an orange in the dark. These little things hint at the world inside her mind that I am working hard to support as it grows.