Over two years of writing this column, I have learnt a lot about parenting theory through interviewing experts and researching topics, and it has been fascinating. One of the most important lessons, however, was learnt through the writing process itself; and that’s the importance of documenting your children’s growth.
I’m not talking about dates scratched into an old-fashioned wooden height-measuring stick, or the gazillions of photos that we take and store in never-seen-again hard-drive files. I mean making note of funny conversations, or keeping a chronological record of the specific issues and challenges that each child goes through as he or she passes through different developmental stages – a log book to keep track of the rapid speed at which your child’s universe expands.
Last week my daughter discovered Michael Jackson and listened to Beat It on repeat for two hours. The week before she became fixated on death and how she would feel when her dogs/her parents/Justin Beiber died (in that order). This week she’s been asking about her baby years and I’ve been stunned by the details I’ve forgotten.
I’m not saying height measurements won’t be fun to look back on, but when my kids are fully grown and have children of their own and I am sitting on the dock of a bay reminiscing about these glory years, this is the stuff I want to remember. OK, I know I could just carry on writing these columns for myself – give myself a deadline every month and really commit to sticking to it. But I won’t.
Or I could set up email accounts for each child (again) and promise myself (again) that as funny, or interesting, things happen, I will hammer out a quick email and send it off to their account, thereby ending up with a full ‘life and times’ for each child. But I have set up emails three times and can’t even remember the addresses, let alone the passwords.
Alternatively I could go old school and buy a little journal to scribble notes in when I get the chance. But I started that in my first pregnancy and by the end of the first trimester I was already leaving pages empty for missed entries – “Yeah, I’ll fill them in next week when I have time.” Again, it never happened.
I don’t feel guilty or ashamed about this. I am full of great intentions to do many things (FlyWheel, Ripe Market, pick up my Emirates ID card), which I never seem to manage to squeeze in. So I will accept myself and resolve to find another way to squeeze in this small but utterly important project.
A parenting forum discussion on the topic mainly offers up suggestions of scrap-booking, but one woman writes a letter to her children every year on their birthdays. A great idea made even better by the fact it only involves being organised one day per year (per child), which is achievable.
Photographer and parenting blogger Kenny Ferguson suggests interviewing your child and recording it. He says, “Ask them about their least and most favourite things, and ask open-ended questions about themselves. Make it a yearly event. One day they’ll love looking back and seeing first hand how they changed over the years.” I like. One for the ‘possible’ pile.
Kenny and some other bloggers suggest doing a ‘day in the life of...’ video. Choose one day and record (or photograph) everything your child does that day. Then store the files in a folder labelled with the date.
On yet another site, I find an app called Evernote, which you can use to store thoughts, pictures, documents, videos and anything else your heart desires. The selling point of Evernote is that your file is stored on a ‘cloud’, making it unbreakable and impossible to lose. When you’re talking about using something over two decades, these are factors that should be given some weight.
Hmmm... All great ideas and certainly worth a try at least. After all, the fact I could simply forget that my son said he wants to do “gymkaskiks” because he likes the lycra outfit is too sad for me to risk it. And when my daughter makes it on to the stage as the singing, dancing extravaganza she hopes to be, it would be a tragedy not to be able to look back at a video of the seizure-esque break-dancing routine she performed aged six.
And the fact that they both say “changed” with a “t” on the front, and “morling” instead of “morning” – and that they double up their past tenses to say, “I sang-ed”, or “I ran-ed”, is too personal, too unique to be forgotten. The giggles over one toilet-related word. The sibling battles over who can press the buttons on the microwave. The tantrums, the laughter, the contagious curiosity. It’s all part of their own personal stories and I don’t want to forget a thing.