Everett, I have so many emotions right now—worry, nervousness and mostly, overwhelming love—that I felt I needed to start this journal as a letter to you. Eight days ago, you were born….
That was the moment it started. It wasn’t because it was cool or cutesy or because I wanted to brag about doing it. It’s because I wanted to communicate so much to this tiny human…this brand new, yet most important, person in my life. There were so many things I wanted to tell him; but I knew that not only could he not understand now (or for several years) the things I wanted to say, but I also knew I would never remember the extent of my joy, fear, and anticipation by the time I could relay my feelings to my son.
I began journaling then on the eighth day of my son’s life, and then I began a new journal for my second son the day before his planned arrival. My boys are still very young, so I haven’t been doing it too long, but I already am in love with the idea and so glad I started. I journal for me—it’s nice to be able to tell these itsy-bitsy beings how you’re feeling. And I journal for them—one day, although in the distant future, they will appreciate it.
I think of all the little stories about my boys that I forget from one week to the next, and I’m happy to be able to document them for the long haul. I wish I had something like this from my parents. As a new mom, it would have been amazing to be able to read about my own mother’s thoughts and feelings as she raised my brother and me; and after recently losing my dad, I wish I had a note or two from him as well.
I started thinking about all of my friends with older children and worrying that they might think they had missed the journaling boat since they didn’t start on Day 1. But it’s never too late to start journaling for your children. Whether they are eight months old, eight years old, just turned 18, or are even sneaking up on 41, your children will still appreciate a letter or two or three from their parents. It’s not like you will ever have a shortage of stories or sentiments to share—there’s always still so much to say. And even if you can now say exactly what you feel to your children on a daily basis, there’s something more treasured, special, and honest about a journal or a letter.
Now, I’m no journaling expert; but if you want to start journaling for your kids, here’s what this mama would advise:
- If it feels like a burden, you’re doing it wrong. Don’t put pressure on yourself to write about every single milestone or every passing holiday. If you feel like you have something to write, write it. If you don’t, don’t.
- Don’t put yourself on a schedule. You should write when you feel like it. No more, no less. Sometimes, I write twice in one day; and sometimes, there will be a month between entries. Putting yourself on a schedule is setting yourself up for disappointment at the first missed “deadline.”
- Don’t feel like you need to write a novel. Again, no pressure. Some days, a paragraph will cut it; and some days, you will have four pages’ worth of feelings to share.
- All children are not created equal (at least when it comes to journaling). Don’t feel like if you have something to say to one that you are obligated to write something to the other(s). They are individuals and should be treated as such. And you will definitely want separate journals for each child so they can have their own one day…you can’t split a journal so everyone can keep part of it.
- Keep your journal nearby. I keep both journals for my boys on my nightstand with a pen or two at the ready. They need to be accessible and in your face at all times so journaling stays at the top of your mind and is easy to execute.
- Write it out. There are several ways to journal for your kids, and I’ve heard of some great ideas that involve utilizing a dedicated email address for letters to your children. But I guess I’m old school, and I believe a handwritten note from your mama is a little more special than something printed out in Times New Roman.
- Remember the rules of journal content. There are no rules. If you’re scared about something, write about it. If your child did something funny in the grocery store, write about it. If you had a silly dream about your kid, write about it. My favorite thing to include are little made-up songs, rhymes, and silly nicknames that we use for our kids. Twenty years from now, the song I sing to my son while he’s in the bath would be long forgotten if it weren’t for the journal. What a great memory to revisit—and maybe he will even share it with his own kids someday.
- If you have regrets about not starting sooner, own them. It’s simple. Just start where you are and share where you came from. It might look like this: “Dearest child, I wish I had started this journal to you years ago, but I didn’t. However, I’m so glad to be starting now!” Your first few entries might be longer as you recount some of your favorite stories from the past, but you’ll catch up to the present soon enough.
- You don’t have to be a writer to write. Everyone has feelings. Everyone has stories to tell. Just grab a pen and say what you’re thinking. No planning or literary talent necessary. A simple, “This is what we did today,” might not seem interesting now, but it could be a treasured memory in a few decades.
Like I said, I’m no expert when it comes to journaling, but the point is that you don’t have to be. If you have something to share with your kids, write it down. They can laugh about the stories when they are old enough to read it; they can share some of the silliness and traditions with their own children when they come along; and they can revisit it over and over to feel close to you after you’re gone. It’s never too late to start. Enjoy your journaling journey!