Thanks for the Memories: How (and Why) to Keep a Special Memories Journal

We think we’re going to remember the special magical moments with our child-especially the really funny and touching things they say and do… but we don’t.

For example, my grandfather once confessed to me that he wished he had written down more of the stuff my mother-and his grandchildren-did and said. Not too long afterward, my mom also mentioned how she wished she had written down more about the everyday events that she wished she could remember better. And that’s when the light bulb went off for me. Okay, I thought, when I have a kid I will write it down!

And so before my son was born I created what I call my Special Memories Journal. After five years I’ve filled several of these with special memories, and they are my most prized possessions. Last year I even made a “mini-journal” for my parents as a holiday gift. It contained all of the special moments involving them and my son. My mom says it was her favorite gift, and now she’s looking forward to getting a new one every year.

When my son was 3 months old I was writing in the journal and my friend’s 5 year-old daughter asked what I was doing. When I told her, she asked her mom if she kept a special book about her. When her mom said no, I wished I could’ve turned back the clock to tell her what I’m going to tell you now: It doesn’t take a lot of time or energy to keep this journal. It just requires writing a few lines every day. If you try it, you’ll be so glad you did-and you won’t have the same regrets that plagued this mother (and two generations of the Curnow family).

You may think you’re going to remember every funny and touching thing your children do or say. But I can guarantee you won’t unless you write it down. Looking back at older entries in journals from years ago, I’m always astonished by how much I don’t remember until I read it and it stirs the memory-like this moment I wrote about when my son was 2 months old:

You really smiled at me when I came to pick you up after you woke from your nap. Usually you look pissed off that you have to wait at all.

See, I know I never would have remembered that my son ever looked pissed off after a nap when he was an infant. But after reading that I remember that he was always all about the business of getting to the breast and would only look relieved and content after he got latched back on it.

And there’s this more recent entry: I was driving my son to Krispy Kreme to get doughnuts. Of course, I never do this (though I suspect my husband may do it more often than he admits). So it was a really big deal. My son was chirping in the back seat about how excited he was that we were going to get a whole box of doughnuts and that we were going to share them with the friends we were going to see for a play date. This is what transpired:

G: “Mommy, I want to be buried with doughnuts.”

(Again, one of the great things about the journal is that it reminds you of bits of back story you might otherwise forget. Here, my son was obviously thinking about our beloved dog, Zoe, who died 2 years ago. We buried her with her bed, a tennis ball, and her favorite biscuits, and this obviously made a big impression on Griffin.)

Me: “Oh? Is there anything else you want to be buried with?”

G: “Yes, a chocolate milk machine. And 2 cups.”

Me: “Who gets the other cup?”

G: “Daddy’s Mommy.”

(Doug’s mom died 4 months after G was born, so he doesn’t have any memories-that he can articulate-of being with her, but we have pictures of her around the house and we talk about her often. He, however, has never seen or heard of a chocolate milk machine.)

Again, you may think you’re going to remember something like this, but, you know what? You probably won’t unless you write it down. Of course, remembering isn’t the only advantage to writing these incidents down. Because done consistently, it serves the same purpose as a gratitude journal-the mere act of writing down these precious moments reminds you that they have happened, and that your life is full of them.

Of course, like anything that sounds like a good idea, you must make it a routine practice or else you won’t do it.

For the first 6 months of my son’s life I kept the journal almost every night, but now I update it weekly when I fill out my weekly planning tool, the 30-Minute Manifesto. I write down the great things my son says or does on sticky notes throughout the week, and I stick them in the journal, and then I write them in the journal at the end of the week.

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