Momma Told Me: How I Got Here, My First 5 Years- #TalkReadSing #First5CA

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How I Got Here, My First 5 Years- #TalkReadSing #First5CA

#HowIGotHere #First5CA
Momma Told Me: If I'm talking, you're listening.

They say it takes a village.

It really does. The first 5 years of a child's life are arguably the most impressionable. 90% of a child's brain will develop during those 5 years- and they go by in a flash. Just stop and think of all the places, sights, sounds, smells, and voices they will experience in that time, each impression molding them ever so slightly. I sometimes hear my friends say, "She's only 2, it won't make a difference," or "He's just a toddler, he won't remember his birthday." I like to disagree. I remember things, whole vivid experiences of sights and smells and sounds, as young as 18 months.
Part of what impacts a person at such a young age is the attitude in which impressions are made. If something is particularly exciting in a positive or negative scale, it is likely to leave a longer more lasting impression. For me, at 3, my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkins Lymphoma. You all know she survived, and is still alive today- but, for me, this forever impacted my life and those first 5 years. For example, my mother only appears in 1 set of photos with me during that 3 year period. For a long period of time, my mother was not around, and when she at long last was, she was in no physical or mental capacity to be a full time mother.

But, in my childhood photos (of which there are a lot, nearly a batch every month) there are still plenty of adults present. Neighbors, friends, friends of family, everyone stepped in. I can recall some very frightening memories of visiting Momma, in the hospital, but I can never recall the feeling of being alone. In fact, quite the opposite. I remember the time as being an almost unending parade of people and places. There was always a smile and a hand, or a lap to sit on, and my favorite source of comfort? The sound of a voices reading to me.
Dad and I #HowIGotHere #First5CA
My father, in particular- would talk to me a lot. Even when I was too young to really understand what he was saying, he'd point and speak, or make eye contact through entire conversations of nonsense. I can imagine he was explaining things to me, but I really just thought he was my personal jester, this funny man there to entertain me. And it made me smile. I smiled a lot. As anyone who knew me as a toddler- despite everything going on in the world around me, I was a happy baby. And my brain grew with every word, with every sound, with every bit of laughter.
Grandpa and Me #First5CA #HowIGotHere
Sometime during those first 5 years I became fascinated with mimicking adults. I wanted to wear everything my mother had ever worn, and I wanted to do everything I watched my father do. My dad was fascinated with current events and I stole the newspaper whenever it was left unattended for too long. My father also read to me each night- so I began pulling books out at random, demanding he 'listen' while I read. I'd furiously point at pictures and words until one of the adults would at long last explain them, and my face would light up in smiles. I could listen to them talk all day, even if I didn't quite understand what they were saying. And so my brain grew.
When my mother was home again at last, and things began to get back to normal, I was headed towards 5 and quite the handful. Because I had been given so much attention over the past few years I was understandably a bit bossy. My grandfather would often play a game with me where he'd sing a line or whistle a tune from a classic cartoon and ask me to guess. By the end of a few rounds I'd literally be scaling him asking for more. Plenty of smiles were shared. And my brain grew.

Even better, Momma began reading me my bed time stories. But she was much slower and more deliberate. In addition to reading the pages she'd stop and ask me to explain what we had just read, putting an emphasis on comprehension. "Reading is useless without understanding," she'd say. Back then I thought it was all just a way of interrupting a good story, but, today, I look back and am amazingly grateful.
Given the cards I was dealt I could easily have looked back on it all as a frightening, lonely, and confusing time- So much of my brain was developing while the adults in my life themselves tackled the weight of the world. But my village came together, and the neighbor would sing, while my mother's best friend would color with me, and my father would talk. Not all at once, of course, but you get the picture. I was constantly engaged. This not only gave me an immense sense of confidence and capability, but a feeling of belonging and value that made me thirsty to mimic and learn, and ready to grow. You don't have to be a parent to impact a child's life in a big way. If you know a toddler in their first 5 #TalkReadSing. It's as easy as that.

If you interact with a toddler every day check out these simple and free activities for babies to help engage and grow young minds.Visit First 5 California for more valuable information, videos, and resources to help parents and caregivers enrich the lives of children 5 and under.

What Daughter Says: A child's mind grows 83% during their first 3 years, and 90% of it's size within the first 5. Help ignite pathways to curiosity and growth by engaging their brains constantly through talking, reading, and singing.


  1. I totally agree that it matters what a child is exposed to from the youngest of ages. I love how positive your experiences were even through it could have been a negative time. I checked out the link for First 5 California and I will definitely pass the info along for people I know with little ones.

  2. I was just talking to my friend whom is currently pregnant and going to give birth mid June and we both totally agree with this sentiment; The first few years of a kids' life are crucial in their development. Kids are CONSTANTLY learning and adapting and it's important to help them through in a positive and educational way!

  3. Interesting. One of my first memories is the carpet in my room (it was very blue) but I'm not sure if I actually remember that or it's a false memory from pictures I've seen.

  4. I agree completely I remember things that happened to our family and myself at a very young age. And yes, I speak to my grandchildren as thought they can understand me completely and without baby talk. I was going through old photo with my mother recently and the memories will forever be precious to me.

  5. This is so true. The first few years of our children's lives are so important!

  6. This is such a touching story. And drives home for me how important being with a child during those years can be. And you are right, it doesn't have to be THE MOM but they sure do need that continual love. Your pictures were so heart warming. I enjoyed this post so much.

  7. Thank you for sharing your story. I was blessed to have my parents keep my daughter when I had tobwork. It is so important that they be surrounded by love and support when they are growing up.

  8. I wholeheartedly agree that those interactions matter so much. Thank you so much for sharing your personal memories on this topic, I always love reading your stories :).

  9. This is so very true. The earliest teachers in a child's life are those around them before they ever enter the school system

  10. I love this! Those first 5 years are why I think young/new mothers (myself included) are so neurotic - we don't want to mess our kids up! Loved all these pictures you shared!