When I was pregnant with my first child I decided to write a journal with the intent to note all the excitement about the coming birth, our family, our house, the fun things we do together, daily stuff as he grew, and current events as they related to us. This seemed the perfect way to capture all the things that I wished I had access too both as a person as I got older, memories of childhood that we easily forget, better understanding your parents while they did their parenting thing, and what they really thought about me when I was a kid.
See, I don't have those things. My father worked a lot when I was a kid - as in my main memory of him is him falling asleep at the dinner table. He wasn't home for the majority of the daily stuff, school, friends, etc. And though I remember some random snippets here and there, it's the kinds of memories and thoughts a mother has that I wished I still could enjoy. However, my mother died unexpectedly when I was nineteen. I do have the traditional baby book with dates of milestones, but its the personal touches that I miss most. With that in mind, and the perpetual paranoia that I, too, might drop out of existence before my children we ready to hear what knowledge of their childhoods I might remember - twenty-some years after the fact when they were done with their total focus on high school, video games, friends - I set out to write a journal for each of them.
My intentions were good. I made pages of each family member, parents, grand parents, great grandparents, our house where they would grow up (that we no longer live in), the history of the special cradle that has been handed down for generations that they first slept in. I tried to write every few days, often propping my eyes open for a few more moments during pregnancy and the early years that are filled with exhaustion.
I'd already filled one journal for my son when my daughter came along. Now I had two journals to write in. That was harder. It doesn't seem like a paragraph or two every couple days would be a big deal...until you're keeping up with two kids and working full time, and that whole lack of sleep thing. But I plodded onward.
Sad to say, my hands aren't what they once were in terms of handwriting and my job puts a lot of strain on them. Had I started with typing the journals, this project probably would have lasted longer, but alas, that wasn't the case, and I had to (for my sanity) set it aside in 2009. By that point my daughter was seven.
I tucked the journals away in a fire safe for a magical time when they were old enough to appreciate all my efforts on their behalf.
That time came a few weeks ago when I was shuffling through the safe looking for some papers. My son is now eighteen. I thought about saving them for when he moved out, or got married, or was going to have a kid of his own, but who knows when any of that will happen. So 'In college' became the milestone. And then, as I was getting his two journals out, I figured what the hell, I might as well give my fourteen year old daughter hers as well and check that project off my mom list.
I handed each of them their journal(s) and explained what they were and why I'd created them. They both said thanks and went back to his video games (not sure he'll ever grow out of that phase) and whatever she was painting (this child is my mini-me as a teen).
As there were no immediate reactions, I gave them each a few days before asking if they'd taken some time to read a little of their journals. Son: no. Daughter: yes. While I was disappointed that my son hadn't touched them (they were, in fact, sitting right where I'd left them on his desk), I was somewhat heartened to hear my daughter had at least read some of it.
"Great. So what did you think?"
"I can't believe I liked squash!"
"Crazy, but true. So how much did you read?"
"The whole thing."
"And that's the one thing that stuck out?"
"Yeah. I hate squash. I can't believe I liked it."
Yep. That was her entire take away of seven years of staying awake and pushing through hand pain to share my thoughts of her early childhood.
I have hopes they will both (again / eventually) read their journals when they are at whichever more appropriate milestone in their lives that appreciate what I have left for them. Then again, perhaps it is the fact that I'm still right here, that they don't. And if that's the case, I'll be happy to be here as long as I'm able and those journals can keep gathering dust.