As a youngster, I was highly encouraged to journal by my parents. I loved to write and I express myself much more thoroughly through the written word than verbally. There’s times I end up shaking my head at myself thinking, “did I just really say that?” Regardless, hand me a pen (er, computer or phone) and I can put everything down on paper much easier.
I was the only 2nd grader to said they wanted to be an author, that I remember. Ok, I also said I wanted to be a vet, a teacher, a dog kennel owner, a waitress (I wanted tips, let’s be honest) and a grocery check stand clerk (yay for self check-out lines so I can do that now!). But at the ripe age of seven, I decided right there in the reading corner of my classroom, that my name should be on the front of books. Oooooh, and maybe a headshot for the book cover…but I digress. Now, let’s be clear, I am not a published author (unless you count this blog, but they didn’t have blogs in the early 90s) but writing is still my outlet and I love to share it with those who will find it useful. This is why I decided to take my journaling skills and put them to use for my kids.
I decided to journal about our daily lives in a notebook for my kids. Each entry starts as a letter to them and either explains what’s been going on lately or shares a story about their dad and me. I want them to know our history when they’re grown up, as I’ve had many questions for my parents. Nothing earth shattering, but I want my kids to know the old, rusted cow bell in the windowsill and the windmill in our garden was given to us by my grandparents.
The back stories: my grandparents have lived in the same house for 40 years after being stationed here when my grandpa was in the military. My extended family are still in the Midwest where many of them still live on or close to the farm. My 83-year-old grandfather was tinkering in the garage one night while my daughter and I went over to help them with some things because they’ve decided to down size and move a few miles away. I have to say, this wasn’t just emotional for them, it was emotional for me! So as my daughter is toddling around the garage, my grandpa hands her this rusted cow bell. He explains to me that when she gets older, I need to remind her that the bell is an actual bell one of the cows on the farm wore back home. My daughter took it from him and you could see her wheels turning as she shook it for the first time. It clanked and rattled and she squealed with this giant grin on her face and shook it again. I’m not sure whose face I enjoyed watching more; hers because she had received a new toy, or my grandpa’s because he just passed on a piece of our family’s history to her. They clapped and yelled together every time she shook it that night and that’s a memory I won’t forget. I know she will never even know it happened, so when I came home and told my husband, he immediately said, “that needs to go in her book” and he’s right. I want her to know when she gets older and has no idea where this rusty, old bell came from, there’s a story behind it.
The windmill in our garden is one of my favorite pieces in our new house. When my grandparents moved, my grandma asked my dad who he thought may enjoy having her windmill from the backyard. My dad immediately told her that we would love it because we were in the process of house hunting and we wanted land. Our new house has this amazing fenced garden and that windmill looks wonderful in it. It came from my great-grandparents’ farm in Missouri and my grandparents hauled it back to Washington in the mid-70s and have had it in their backyard ever since. I love that it has family history and I can pass it down to one of my girls later on. Again, all of this makes for wonderful journal entries for them to read.
I am pretty proud of myself that this is a project I started and kept up with as best I could. It’s not a daily occurrence, don’t get me wrong, and sometimes there are big gaps of time in between entries. But they are getting done and it will be something they will enjoy later on in life. For now, they won’t even know it’s something they have, but can compare notes when they’re older.
1. The journal doesn’t have to be fancy. My oldest daughter’s is in a notebook that kids would use in school (I found out I was pregnant with her right around the times school supplies hit Target, haha). My youngest’s is the one in the photo of this post which I found in the stationary aisle at Target (are you picking up on a theme here?)
2. Write about whatever you want; family stories (like the windmill and cow bell), their birth stories, milestones in their lives, facts and tidbits about you and/or your significant other, or just what’s happening in daily life. The entries don’t have to be long, either.
3. Add photos if you want!
4. Start and end with a salutation. Each entry starts with “Dear Kiddo” or their name and ends with “Love, Mom”. My husband has said he’d write an entry too, so by signing it it’s fun for them to see the difference.
5. The most important part for me: it’s handwritten. This is only because I love finding old, handwritten notes from family. My mom gave me a cookbook that my great-grandmother gave to her one year for Christmas. It wasn’t until years later that I was flipping through it, only to realize she’s written on the inside page a note to my mom wishing her a merry Christmas and the year. I love those kinds of things.
See? Simple. Make it easy on yourself. The fact that your kids will have something like that later on in life will be fantastic enough that making it elaborate won’t make a difference. Happy journaling!