I am a documenter.
I’m also a hoarder—I keep everything. If you have ever written me a letter—even if we were in the 8th grade--chances are, I still have it. I have a deep need to remember, and the older I get, the harder it has become.
I know how much I love hearing stories about myself when I was little, told by my mama and daddy, aunts and uncles, and there aren’t nearly enough floating around. My mama documented some things and remembers some things, but as the years have passed, she has forgotten and so have I. One audio tape exists of me reciting The Wizard of Oz, a book that came with a matching cassette, and I had listened to it so many times that I memorized it. I love being able to hear my own little 3-year-old voice, and my aunt’s voice in the background. It gave me a peek into my child-self, that tiny person that I was and hardly recognize or remember.
Now, we have video cameras on our phones and our own children will be able to see and hear themselves, pretty much from the moment of birth, but what about those little things that aren’t caught on tape—those priceless snippets from conversations, their missteps and how you handled them, the people they want God to bless in their bedtime prayers?
Below are a few suggestions that I have found to help me best document my children’s lives:
1. Baby Books
Before I had children, I just knew their baby books would be over-flowing with information and hand-written notes about every cute thing they did and every milestone they achieved. I did fairly well with Mac, but poor Leelee…already, I can see blanks that could be filled quickly and easily if I would just take the time. I do like having baby books for my children. The ones I chose are beautiful keepsakes, and though they may not be as full as I would like, I use them to document things I would have no where else, such as height, weight, shots, dental records, and other information that is important to me. Much of these details are ones that I am really glad I had to glance back upon in trying to determine if Leelee was progressing in a similar fashion to Mac or if anything was amiss.
Every time I go to the pediatrician, he gives me a print-out with Mac or Leelee’s height and weight and other little tidbits that may be of interest later in life. I place those papers in their books. I also have plastic sleeves in the back of their books for certificates and other keepsakes that I don’t want to get lost.
Baby Books may be cumbersome and take some work, but they are beautiful keepsakes that would be priceless gifts to give to your child—or even their spouse—as a wedding gift or when they are about to have a child of their own.
1. Precious Box
All of the women in my family have a “precious box.” As for the boxes themselves: some are beautiful, some are functional, and some are meaningful. But it really doesn’t matter what the box looks like; it is what is inside it that counts.
Our precious boxes hold our most precious writings. The really special letters that someone took the time to write and mail to us. The last birthday card we received from a dear relative or friend. A scrap of paper someone scribbled on and left for us just when we needed it. A picture drawn by a child in our life. The writings that, if our house was on fire, we would want to grab as we ran out the door.
I gave a precious boxes to our baby sitter who is like a member of our family for graduation so she could start filling it through this new chapter in her life. I just bought one for a little girl who just lost her daddy, to put all of the things inside that remind her of him.
You may end up creating several precious boxes for your children over the years. Once one is full, start another one and put the old one up in a safe place. Keep things through elementary school, and buy or make a new one when he or she begins junior high. When he or she hits a milestone, give them their own and let them compile all of the things that mean the most to them.
They will quickly become treasure boxes, I can assure you.
I am very active on Facebook with a lot of “friends” there, and whether it is because I am on the site all the time or because I’m too lazy to go pull out said baby book, I document most of my children’s lives there. I post everything from videos to photos to all of the funny things that Mac says.
When I got pregnant with Leelee, I created a page for her to document my pregnancy. Once she arrived, I started writing letters to her there. You can access her page here.
I don’t believe there is a danger of Facebook fading into oblivion anytime soon, but if it does, I found a way to keep all of my Facebook posts so that all of these hilarious and tender moments from Mac and Leelee’s childhoods are here to stay.
The company is called My Social Book, and through the site, very simply and quickly, I was able to download all of my Facebook activity for as long or as short of a period of time as I wanted to and have it all bound into a book. I post a lot, and for one year of posts, I spent about $70.00. I have created two so far, for 2012 and 2013, and at some point, I will go back and do the rest. To be able to have all of our memorable moments to keep forever and ever, neatly bound in one place to read whenever I want to laugh, cry, or just remember, is by far some of the best money I have ever spent.
4. Birthday Letters
You know, handwritten letters are nearly a thing of the past, and that makes me sad. I love to pull out letters my grandmother wrote to me when I was in college, not just to read her words, but also, to see her handwriting. They evoke memories and bring back a flood of emotion just to look at her familiar scrawl.
So even though I write Leelee letters on her own Facebook page, on her first birthday, I intend to start writing her a handwritten letter that I will seal and put in a box. When she graduates from high school or college or when she gets married or maybe one Christmas, I will give her all of those sealed letters for her to read. I can’t think of anything more meaningful to give your child than little pieces of themselves, recorded by your own hand.
Every time I walked out of my grandmother’s house she said to me, “Remember who you are and to whom you belong.” I believe birthday letters would be a beautiful way to help Leelee do just that.
Our children slip away from us, moment by moment, each and every day, as they grow older and become more independent. Watching them come into their own is thrilling—and devastating. I always want to remember their “littleness,” and I want them to one day be able to see who they were and how I knew them, how other people knew them. It may help them understand me a little better. It may just make them laugh at how funny, how interesting, how very loved they were. It may give them a peek into why they do what they do, or where they are capable of going.
Or, it may embarrass them to death.
They will get over it. I’m sure of it.
Have you found unique and easy ways to document your child’s life? Be sure to share with us on our Facebook page!