“What a beautiful, relaxing family day! J loved the train rides at the park and H couldn’t get enough of climbing on the playground. One of the other moms told us it seems like J has “never met a stranger.” He’s an engaging, outgoing, happy child. He makes Mommy & Daddy so proud. Today he told a dad at the park, “Have a great night. Get a good night’s sleep!”
I wrote that passage in my journal months ago and it’s a small part of what I consider to be my favorite parenting activity — keeping a weekly or — if I’m diligent — daily journal of my children’s childhoods.
To my way of thinking, there is no greater gift that I can leave them. Sure, we have a college fund and a savings account and we hope to guide them to many exciting activities throughout their young lives. But this small, leather-bound (insert Ron Burgundy joke here) book is more than a collection of lined pages. It is a recounting of the time in my children’s lives they will barely remember and the time in their lives when their days were filled with nothing but toys, trips, train rides and family time.
“H started walking today! He stumbled and wobbled but he took 3 steps. We cannot believe he’s barely 9 months old and now we’re chasing after two kids!”
My journal — although I should call it “their” journal since it ultimately belongs to them — allows me to be the chronicler of their adventures, successes, pains, frights and learning moments. It is filled with the mundane — accounts of play dates and their trips to visit family — along with the captivating — their initial attempts at language, journeying to school and making friends.
As a child, I couldn’t spend enough time looking at old family photographs, wondering what someone was thinking or feeling at that moment or what was happening ion their lives. Today, we are overwhelmed with pictures and videos captured on our smartphones. They are so voluminous that I imagine filling hard drive after hard drive with the digital images of my kids’ lives, scarcely able to remember which picture was taken where and when. In our lives every moment is captured and stored and it feels as if we could playback our lives by simply pressing rewind on our DVR’s.
But something about that leaves me feeling hollow. It’s overload and overwhelming. We may be able to view and watch everything we’ve ever done but we won’t be able to capture the memory or feeling we felt while accomplishing it. It’s as if the physical image is swallowing the emotional feeling associated with our memories.
That’s why I embraced the joy of journaling. A family member urged me to do it when my kids were born, knowing that as a journalist I tell stories for a living. It was the best parenting advice I ever got. Journaling — even brief, barely legible passages — provides the enduring gift of family history, a gift that my boys can share with their wives and children. A gift that will give them comfort, unite them through the years and forge a foundation of family that will last their lifetimes.
“Mommy & I laid in bed tonight and laughed and laughed at the something J said. He asked Daddy, “How do mommy’s grow babies?” I had no idea how to respond and told him to ask mommy.”
My hope is that someday I will hand this book and its’ succeeding volumes to my boys and tell them, “Sons, here is your childhood, written in my hand and told through my eyes. The moments and experiences belong to you and Mommy and I share the passion of each adventure you had.”