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Focus on Fathers

Journaling With and For Children

Howard S.
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 3, May-June 2001, p. 111

How can we capture precious memories of our children's young lives? There is the inevitable baby book that records the facts and figures as our children grow. We also have photo albums that show just how precocious our baby really is and hours of videotape witnessing our toddlers take their first tentative steps.

Let me suggest one more way to help record the fleeting moments of childhood. Consider keeping a journal. This can be a truly special way for fathers to connect with their children. Buy an attractive bound blank book. A good one costs less than $10. Then, on a regular basis, take a few minutes to write a paragraph or a page from your child's perspective. Nothing fancy - just give your child his or her voice by using first person singular to record as much detail as possible about your child's latest wonderful (or trying) stage. The key is to write from the child's point of view.

Although it takes some getting used to, consider the fun of putting yourself in your child's place. Seek simple words to express the comfort your nursing baby feels as he or she looks up at his mother. Try to say what your child might be thinking as he or she roughhouses with you or a sibling. You may want to record what each sibling means to the other as they grow up together. The material you have to work with is endless.

Finding the time for this is, of course, a challenge. Often, I bring my children's journals (each one has their own) when we are on a family outing. During a rare quiet moment, I make an entry - first noting the time and place. In a page or two I try to describe, in the child's own voice, their latest milestone or challenging experience. As your child gets older, you can chronicle the stories they tell. An older child may want to draw or write in the journal (limit scribbling to the backs of pages or the end of the book).

As with photographs, birth order may determine how much attention each child gets in his or her journal. My first born, now nine years old, has over three full journals. My five-year-old is halfway through his second journal. My two-year-old is three-quarters of the way through her first. My wife keeps telling me it is not quantity, but the thought that counts.

While keeping a journal is very much its own reward, the best part of the exercise may be giving the journal to your grown child on a special occasion. One of the endearing roles a parent can play in the child's life is to be a repository for their early memories. For me, a journal is a way of capturing these priceless moments.

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