Documenting A Childhood

by Ginger on October 5, 2011

in Mom Thoughts

I’m really bad about documenting J’s life.

I mean, yes, we have a gazillion iPhone photos, 1/2 of which have been Instagramed to make them a little more interesting. So there IS that.

(Case in point. He was learning Inside Voice, SHHHHH)

But the baby book? I haven’t broken that out in probably over a year. I don’t do monthly letters to him here. I don’t write about his stats very often, or his milestones. I don’t do very good at the record keeping.(Just ask my family who wish I’d send more about the little man their way. I’m not trying to keep it from them, I just am bad at putting it down!).

I sometimes wonder how he’ll feel about that when he’s older. Will he be sad that we didn’t note his little accomplishments? Will he wonder why I didn’t write about his daily progress more? Will he be upset to see the baby book only half filled out? I don’t know. I’m not sure it will matter nearly as much to him as it will to me. Because I know that *I* am a nostalgic person, and I know that *I* will someday be mad at myself for not writing about his little moments. I know that I’ll look back and miss my baby, and wish I could remember more of his life. Heck, I read some of the stuff I wrote his first year and it’s like I’m reading someone else’s life–I barely remember some of THAT stuff, and it was a relatively short time ago. I imagine when he’s twenty, I’ll barely be able to remember his big milestones, much less the way he says ZUL for school, or the way he puts this sneaky smile on his face when he’s “sowwy” after a time out, or the way he curls into my arms when he needs comforting in the middle of the night.

But then, that’s part of it, isn’t it? I can write down some of it. I can do a listing of the things he knows, and does, and says (and honestly, I’m planning on trying soon, if not here then at least for his baby book). But I can’t capture in words what it feels like when he curls into me while we’re watching tv. Or the weight of him in the middle of the night after a bad dream. Or the way his laughter lifts my heart. My words aren’t good enough to properly convey what his fingers feel like wrapped around mine. Or the intense mama bear feeling I get when he’s sick or slighted. Those…well, those are the things I really want to remember, the ones I hope he someday knows I felt about him, and those are the ones that are so, SO much harder to write in a way that makes them real.

I know, I know. I’m mixing two VERY different things here. I know that recording his whats and whens is different than recording those feelings. But I can’t help it. Every time I start to write about the whats, I end up at the how-it-makes-me-feels. I can start off writing how he knows these letters of the alphabet, but it never stops there. Every single thing that’s worth recording of my kid brings some sort of emotion to the forefront. Pride. Amusement. Joy. Sadness. Frustration. Love. The emotions of parenthood tied up in every milestone and building block.

I want to get better about being the record keeper, both for him AND for me. I don’t want either of us to regret not having those remembrances. I just need to learn to document even when I feel completely inadequate at documenting how those things feel. Which means teaching myself to separate the two. Somehow.

Caren with a "C" October 6, 2011 at 8:08 am

I am guilty of not keeping up journals for my 4 children. Not like I have had a ton of time to do it, but a writing in the journal once a week would be a good goal. I think creating a WordPress or Blogger private blog would be a great idea to accomplish that and then it can be shared with family members only like grandmas and grandpas who really want to know what is going on.

Ginger October 11, 2011 at 9:32 pm

I think my family would love the private blog idea…but man, the idea of it sure is daunting!

I think I might be able to do a journal…maybe once every two weeks, just to give myself a little leeway. That shouldn’t be TOO hard…right?

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks October 6, 2011 at 8:19 am

I could care less about the baby book my mom sort of kept for me (she wasn’t all that good at it, either). The only time it occurred to me to look at it is when Gavin was about 6 months old to compare his accomplishments to my own. But, did I need it? No. Would I have cared if it didn’t exist? No.

And I’m doing an OK job at documenting Gavin’s first year. I do write monthly posts (not letters) about where he is and what he’s accomplishing, but I’m growing tired of them and feeling they are stale (I promised myself to continue through 12 months and then I will likely go every 6 months or so). I do post photos of Gavin online and do write about his experiences as a child.

But, here’s the thing, there’s this generation of children who don’t have a choice about whether their lives are documented online. And while I think it’s mostly harmless, I have no doubt there will be plenty of examples of parents who post entire lives of their kids online and it causing trouble when the kids are older. I can see the headlines now, “John Doe loses political office run due to mother’s blogging admittance to dropping him on head as a child.” I kid, but you get my point. It might not be such a bad thing that you’re holding experiences close to heart and not telling the world about them.

Ginger October 11, 2011 at 9:40 pm

I do agree a little about NOT documenting every little thing. Even if I wrote more, there’s some stuff I would definitely not put online for just that reason. Although I do wonder if kids of this generation will have any concept of a life NOT shared online, either through their parents or themselves. But that’s another conversation for another day.

I think some of it for me, really comes down to a two-fold issue: on the one hand, I want the record for me. We’re not sure if we’re going to have another kid or not, so there’s a possibility J will be our only. I don’t want to forget the ups and downs of his childhood FOR ME. The other is I want a record for him–but less so he knows his milestones, but more so he knows how I felt about him and parenthood and specifically parenting him growing up. Some of that is tied up with some mortality thoughts, which is a little dark admittedly, but some of it is just..I think it’d be awesome to have that little insight into your early relationship with your parents.

But then I think “man, that’s such a MOM thing. He’s not gonna care about that”, and I let myself off the hook again 😉

clara October 7, 2011 at 8:01 pm

I know what you mean. It is so hard to nail down — the emotions, the moments, the malapropisms.

I love video for this. Do you have lots of video? Because watching video of my now-five year old from when he was 2…it makes me lose my mind. Nevermind the baby who is now 3.5 and my god sometimes I wonder how I am still standing.

The other thing I’ve been doing, because I kind of stopped doing letters or kid-update-posts a while ago (..formally anyway..not in any way that you could search for and believe it or not I search my own site for stuff about my own kids all the time, it’s ridiculous) is writing letters by hand, in a spiral bound notebook. For his fifth birthday, first day of school, and of course, me being me, they don’t stay on topic but are kind of stream of consciousness about where he’s at, where I’m at, etc. I will come across as totally deranged when he’s old enough to read them, I’m sure. It’s kind of a compromise, since I want to record this stuff, but I don’t necessarily want to put it on the blog because then I’m self-conscious that it’s not Written Well Enough and really, it’s not for the world, it’s just for him.

My mom kept half a baby book on me, and it’s interesting to look at. But she has no other journals or anything (that I’m aware of) (ooh now I’m thinking) and my god I wish she did. Because now she’s 70 and has a very refined sense of history, as in, she has told her stories about me so many times that sometimes I correct her on details, you know? I know as much as she does, at this point.

But yeah. Video. More of it.

Ginger October 11, 2011 at 9:45 pm

I think I need to start the letters by hand thing. Maybe that will make me do them. Because I’m kind of thinking of this more like a journal thing than a milestone recording thing in my head. I want him to know stories and feelings and all that jazz, not just when he said his first word (although I never recorded that either I don’t think).

And we need to get better about the video. Right now, we take some, but as soon as the video camera comes out, he wants it and HEAVEN HELP YOU if you don’t hand it over. There are only so many videos of massive tantrums that we need, you know?

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