Welcome to January, the month when people often find themselves making all sorts of resolutions for how to generally improve.
I have a suggestion for one resolution that is fairly easy to keep. This will be useful and has the potential to bring plenty of smiles in the years ahead.
Start keeping a journal!
Sure, we all take a lot of photos and movies these days, but there is nothing like the written word.
If you haven’t done it from the first, it is never too late to begin. Start keeping track of milestones and illnesses. Having things written down can be a valuable resource. I am not advocating keeping a list of every bowel movement (yes there are parents who do that; you know who you are) but knowing how often your child has had strep throat, an ear infection or any significant illness can be quite handy. Especially if you have more than one child, it is often easy to get things mixed up. I have more that one parent who has said, “I know one of my kids gets a rash on Amoxicillin, I am just not sure which one.”
Keeping record of milestones and illnesses alone makes keeping a journal worth the effort, but immortalizing memories and anecdotes is what makes it fun and even more valuable.
I have tracked all kinds of odd statistics. My 26 year old Alana has been on 212 flights. 29 year old Lauren has been on 304. Two of the flights were skydiving expeditions and another flight had her at the controls flying a private plane. (This mom knows how to feel somewhat proud and somewhat horrified at the same moment.) If you give me a moment I can also retrieve all sorts of random facts, like the first movie they ever saw in a movie theater and when they lost their first tooth.
I actually started keeping track of things when I first found out I was pregnant for the first time. Clearly you don’t need to write things daily, but keeping track of milestones and fun things that kids come up with can create a wonderful database of stuff that you are sure to refer to and enjoy as your children grow. My journal unfortunately does have some huge gaps, when I never got to it; just do the best you can.
What started out as my personal musings written in a notebook, morphed into a family journal when I transferred it to a word document. If you like you can create a shared document that both parents can add to. Google drive would be perfect. (Make sure you backup any important documents!) In our journal (both kids share the same one) daddy’s voice was written in italics.
My husband had the wonderful habit of documenting conversations.
The following was from when Alana was seven and daddy was picking her up from school.
Alana: I'm doing a picture in reds and pinks.
Alana: Because Van Gogh had a red period.
Sandy: You're learning about Van Gogh?
Alana: Yeah. And then I'm going to do a painting in different shades of blue.
Alana: Because Van Gogh also had a blue period.
Sandy: Well that's terrific.
Alana: And Miss Price is going to bring a real artist to class so he
can teach us.
Sandy: Well that will be very exciting.
Alana: But it won't be Van Gogh because he's dead!
In our case I am delighted that we were able to track early milestones like first words and motor skills. Over the years random facts like teachers names, the revolving door of boyfriends and life events have all been documented.
One of my favorite posts recounts about the time that 5 year old Lauren and I took a family ceramics class at the local Randall museum. At the start of the first class, the instructor had everyone get a feel for the clay. We stretched and pulled in into all sorts of shapes. As we played, the teacher asked ”Who knows where clay comes from?” Lauren was never shy. Without missing a beat, she called out the answer in a loud, authoritative voice. “Cows! Clay comes from cows!” There was a moment of stunned silence as all the grown ups at the table did our very best not to break out in laughter. “Hmmm”, said the teacher, handling it very nicely. “Great guess, but it actually comes from the earth”
Cows?? I remember that being one of the hardest giggles I ever had to stifle. Laughing in the face of my five year old was not something I wanted to do. Kids do come up with some wonderful stuff.
Another one that became part of family lore was the time that 3 year old Alana bit her sister. Mommy: “Alana, why did you bite your sister?! You know you shouldn’t bite!”
Alana: “I forgot not to.” That “I forgot not to” line still comes up every once in awhile.
When does it stop?? My kids say never. They especially insist that I keep up with their flight tallies! (We count still count every take off.)
You might be dealing with any of the more challenging aspects of parenting like sleep deprivation, the “terrible twos” or teens that are giving you a run for your money. Warning, time zips by. Blink and they are out of the nest. Carpe Diem! The online journal is a great way to capture moments forever.