Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Journals Without a Back-Space Key

"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry," said James (1:19).

Definitely not a verse I choose to quote often.

It's one of the most valuable qualities in my husband - this ability to listen before speaking.

Because I am deficient in listening skills and overly efficient in speaking skills, I tend to commit an overabundance of verbal crimes.

That's one of the reasons I write.

Do you know that my BACK SPACE button actually has the most smudges and scratches of all the keys on my keyboard? Perhaps that's a sign that even on paper, I tend to be overly quick to speak!

With my children, the words that flow from my lips do not come with a built-in back-space key. So many times, I have gone to a little heart and apologized for words - critical, angry, impatient, patronizing.

One place that I find to be safe for words is here:

I know it's not much - just college-ruled sheets of paper thrown together in colorful notebooks intended for math or physics notes. But in each of these notebooks, there are pages of handwritten letters. Most of them are just the ramblings of a wordy mother - humorous stories, funny memories, and lots of love-words to my kids, maybe things that they might not want strewn across a public blog. There's something so intentional about parenting with a pen and paper. I cherish the one place where I still get to do this.

My rules for the journals are few:
  • I write when I can, but I do not stress about getting to it in a routine manner.
  • Others are welcome to write if they want, but they are not free to read other entries. One time, after a particularly trying afternoon of bickering, I let the girls look at their journals and after flipping to an empty page, they drew pictures in each other's books. On their birthdays, I leave the journal out on an empty page and let family members sign if they want to. One time, Punkin weaved a story to her faithful scribe named Grandpa, who wrote meticulous letters on the nearest napkin, and even that made it into the journal.
  • I have no long-term goal for the journals. Someday, probably when they are around sixteen, I will hand it to them and go cower in the corner while I wait to see if they roll their eyes at me and Gil.
  • I try to write an entry for each child while we are on any long car rides, or on any vacation.
  • Anything goes in the journal! I'm not neat and there are many scribbled notes that I wrote, carried home, and glued into the books.
  • I try to be honest. If the kids are going through a difficult phase, I try not to gloss over it. If they are excelling at something, I try not to overly highlight it. I figure, someday they are going to be parents, and I don't want them to think all we did was sit around and play family BINGO and drink hot chocolate. Sometimes, we argued or had a flat tire on the side of the road or did math begrudgingly.
  • I speak often of stuff we have done. I used to think that facts were boring, but those have been fun to reread as well.
  • I include Real Gil whenever possible. He is welcome to write at anytime, and often will help me think of stories to include.
  • I always hand write the letters. This takes a bit more time - and it runs the risk of having no BACK SPACE key - but I want them to have as much of my voice as I can give them. Exclamations points, run-on sentences, hearts over the i's, and scribbled-out words are all included.

This has worked for me, a scrapbook-challenged mother of three. If you find your spoken words inadequate for little ears, perhaps you too will find value in saving some of those words for later.

Resting in His Always-Love,


Kathy said...

Personally, also not being a scrap booking mama, I think these notebooks will mean so very much more long term. What a blessing you are speaking into them and perhaps even the next generation. Wow!

Julie Bagamary said...

What a great legacy!

Rachel said...

I love these! I have three notebooks sitting in my desk that I purchased while pregnant with my (now 19month old) daughter. One for my son, one for my daughter, and one for my husband. I haven't written in them for a long time, but now you've inspired me to have a go at it again! Thank you!

Karen said...

Glad you all see the purpose of my old-school notebooks! :)

Anonymous said...

Fantastic idea! I will definitely start this habit. Thanks ~Jessica