Awhile ago I read an article that spoke to my writer’s soul. In the article, aimed at parents everywhere, the author suggested that parents begin a journal. But unlike normal journals this one has the parent write an entry to the child and then the child write an entry in response. It becomes a record of sorts, showing our feelings at important dates and those times when things are simply normal and good. The author specified that this shouldn’t be an everyday journal, but rather when the person writing wishes to say something.
I began this with my son some time ago. You can even see the changes in his penmanship as the pages go by. And while my son’s entries are typically repetitive, I have found that my entries can get repetitive too. But I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. There are things that need to be repeated. There are things that need to be said over and over. There are things that we need carved into our very soul so that we never forget them.
I will not betray my son by telling you about his entries, but rather, will concentrate on my own. My entries talk about how proud of him I am, although I try to use specifics for the time that we are in. My entries are never a treatise on what he is not doing but rather my awe in all that he is doing. My entries implore him to remember how much I love him, how I am willing to listen to everything he wants to say, and how at the end of his day it is he, my son, that makes this world so much easier to navigate.
Less you believe me to be blind, let me reassure you, I know my child is not perfect. My child, while typically a normal and good person, has moments where I can literally feel the rage overtake me. My son, who is so smart, can be as dumb as the wall in front of you. My son, who takes such care, can be careless. I am not blind to this; and while at the time of the infractions I may have to raise my voice or ground him in some way, I know in my heart that isn’t what needs to be recorded in that journal.
You see the journal is for him to pull out twenty years from now. The journal is for him to look at when the world isn’t going his way. The journal is a written statement of not only all I know he can be, but all that I adore about him. The journal is for him, not for me (despite the fact he writes entries too). The journal is to give him something tangible to hold onto deep into the night.
Imagine for a moment if you had written proof of the way your parents thought of you. Imagine if at any moment you could open a book and see clearly in black and white exactly what someone feels for you. Imagine if you went through life with tangible proof that your parents liked you, never mind loved you. How would that have changed you? How would that have blessed you? At the end of the day, how would that have helped you?
I have two loving parents, but the love that they feel for me is assumed. Is it real? Some days its really hard to tell, despite the fact that I am going into middle age. It is hard to know what they think of me, my career, my parenting skills, the life that I have painstakingly built. It is hard to know what they know. It is hard to know how much they understand. It is hard to know if they know me at all. Spoken words and an occasional card won’t answer your questions, just like they won’t answer mine. I will never know if my parents are proud of me, despite the fact that even I can acknowledge I am no parents dream child. I will never know if my parents understand who and what I am because they can’t give me the signs that will give me that comfort. Maybe it is my fault for not being able to read the signs and maybe it is theirs for not being able to speak my language. But it doesn’t really matter because I don’t know.
It is never too late or too early to start a cool thing. And you will be amazed at what your child writes to you. Most of it will be hearts and flowers but sometimes you get a glimpse of something a little deeper. My son doesn’t write poetry and he barely fills the whole page; but that doesn’t matter because he can see my love, my pride, my hope right there in black and white.
I encourage you to experience this with someone you love. It doesn’t only have to be a child. Don’t put limitations on it, don’t put rules of what can and can not be said, just let it be a record between you and the person that you love. There is only one rule I would encourage; as I told my son, what is written in that book is between me and him. I will always keep his words right next to my heart if he promises to keep mine next to his. Ultimately he is a guy so I deal with what I have. But what I have is an incredible child who each and every day gets older and each and every day needs the memory of loving parents more and more.