Today I want to share something that is simple, yet incredibly important to me. It doesn’t take a lot of time, but it will be valued for years to come by those who love you most. What I’m talking about is journaling for your children.
As a teen I used to write regularly in a journal and spill my guts on every page. I think about the crushes I wrote about, the struggles I cried over, and the hopes and dreams I shared with only my diary. Those books are long gone now for reasons I had no control over, but I still remember them as a place to put myself.
Years later, when I was pregnant with my first child, my mom gave me my baby book. Every page was fun to look at, but the very last page is what caught my attention and my heart. In my young mother’s handwriting she wrote a few precious words that captured her heart for me.
11/22/74 (I was 2 years old)
“My dearest, darling Cricket. Mama is sitting here tonight feeling a little blue because I just put you in bed and you’re growing so fast and I don’t want you to. You are such a lady. You always are playing mama and go around saying “I da mama and you the grandma” and were cleaning house. It seems life is going so fast and you aren’t going to be my baby for long. You have been saying your prayers for about 9 months now, it’s precious. You would start out, “bless Cory dog, thanks for Daddy coming home, thank you for our food, name of Jesus, amen.” You are truly your daddy’s little girl, you are always saying, “I so proud my Daddy coming home,” or “my daddy be so proud of me.” Cricket, I hope you will have as lovely children as I do and know the wonderful and yet sad joy of being a mama. I only hope you can love like I do. Well, I’m going to go to bed sweetheart, and I will write again sometime. Good night. I love you, and don’t let the bed bugs bite and sleep tight.”
That was all, but it connected me to my mom in a way I had never experienced. After that I decided to buy a journal and write to my baby about all that I felt and experienced. I wanted her to someday read about how much I loved her even before she was born. I shared my hopes and dreams for her and sometimes just talked about my day. I wanted this journal to be for her, but it was also a place for me to put all those overwhelming feelings and thoughts that a new mother has.
My journaling changed through the years, and wasn’t always consistent. At first I mainly wrote to Willow about her and how she impacted my life. About my fears, the intense love I felt for her, etc. Later, however I began to write to the Willow who would read this journal, the adult Willow. I’ve always had an ache in my heart that I didn’t know my dad for who he was. He passed away when I was 15, and I regret that I only knew him in that single-faceted way that children know their parents. I don’t know what he thought or what kind of person he was. What was his day like? I don’t even have anyone around to really share that information with me now. So In my journaling, I began to imagine what it would be like if I wasn’t around when my children were grown, and I wrote to them from that perspective. I imagine an age when I will give them these books—probably somewhere between 20 and 25, or maybe when they have children themselves. This helps me to feel safe to really share who I am without feeling that I need to hold back inappropriate details. I imagine them as friends. I want them to profit from any lessons my life can give them, by truly knowing my struggles and my motivations. Those things are important for me to share with them, but I also like to talk about the mundane things of life. Things like what I bought at the store, how their day was at school, or what Dad and I talked about on any particular day. Those are fun things, like when you find an old photo from your childhood and find it more interesting to see what was sitting on your counter, or what things were filling up the messy space in your living room.
It is hard to maintain a regular schedule of writing sometimes, and I’ve been surprised when I saw that I had only written once in an entire year! I know that journaling is incredibly important to me so that can be a little disheartening.
Thankfully, I’ve discovered a solution that works for me, and it’s really simple. One of the reasons I didn’t write was because I knew that it often took a bigger chunk out of my day than I wanted, kind of like a phone call from a friend you haven’t seen in a while. But just like a phone call, you know that if you talk to someone regularly you don’t really spend a lot of time on the phone, sometimes only a few minutes because there is no big “catch-up” to do.
Well, that’s all I need to do now, and I make sure that I don’t spend a lot of time journaling by setting my timer and stopping when it goes off. And guess how long I set my timer for? FIVE MINUTES per kid (yes I write in 2 journals now). That means my journaling only takes 10 minutes out of my day. Anyone can do that. Short and sweet. There are a few times that I need to extend the time, but that isn’t often.
Here is my Franklin Covey Pagefinder/Flylady Routine where I placed journaling as part of my morning routine. So far it has been a success and I love that it never feels like an overwhelming task.
I hope you try this because it is such a blessing to pour your heart out to your children knowing that someday they will truly know you for who you are and who you were.
Some things I recommend:
- Buy a journal made to last (acid free paper, leather cover, stitched pages). The very point of this journal is to leave a legacy to your children.
- Use a timer and stop when it goes off.
- Schedule your journaling time.
- Don’t feel like you have to fill a page. It’s okay to just say, “Hi, I don’t feel well today. I’ll write later.” Even that is a record of your life.
- Decide at what age you want to give this to your child, and write to that person. It really allows you to be more open than if you feel like you are writing to a 4 year old.
Here are some topics to write about if you can’t think of anything to say, your kids will enjoy it.
- What are their favorite meals, friends, toys, songs, tv shows, clothes, etc.
- List some funny things they say.
- What is something they do that drives you crazy?
- What is a normal day for you?
- What shampoo, soap, perfume, etc. does your family use?
- Interview your child and write down their answers. (More than 5 min)
- Write down birthday and Christmas presents
- Talk about things you love about them.
- Describe their room
- Think about the most mundane thing that no one will remember, and talk about it.
- Write scripture verses to encourage them.
It is so comforting knowing that my children will truly know how much I have always loved them, and they will get to know themselves through my eyes. How great a gift, through such little effort.
By the way, I have been known to pull my journals out at particularly hard times and read portions to my children about how much I love them. How can they argue with that?
One day I let Willow scribble in her journal. Such a fun memory.