Erin writes about the intersection of frugality and green living at The Green Phone Booth and The Sustainable Triangle. She lives in Raleigh, NC with her four favorite fellows (her husband and three sons). I love this post for multiple reasons; I have stacks and stacks of journals chronically every stage of my life and have found them such a valuable resource both in sorting through issues as I encounter them and in reflecting later on, I love family traditions and this sounds like such a fun and valuable one, I also love all the inherent benefits like increased literacy, family time and sharing thoughts and feelings together, learning to stick with something etc. etc. This reminds me that I need to bust out my journal and start recording some of the important things that have been happening around here lately!
"Journal time!" I call to my husband and three kids.
My husband gathers up paper and pens while I gather the the boys around the table.
"What day is it?" one kid asks. "What did I do this week?" says another.
And then the quiet of concentration settles upon us as we each record the events of the week - some in drawings, some in words, some with more words than others. When everyone is done, I'll gather up the papers and store them away in a three ring binder, our family journal that the boys can flip through at will to relive the events of the past year.
This is our Sunday night ritual, a tradition my own parents started when I was little and that I revived with my family nearly a year ago. My parents did it a little differently, providing each of us with our own hardcover journal to write or draw in each week, and to this day, I love to look back at the silly drawings and simple stories from my childhood. And although my parents abandoned the journal ritual after just a few years, I had developed a personal journaling habit that I kept up into adulthood.
To keep a record
The year I met my husband, I wrote my journal on the computer and saved the files on a floppy disk (remember those?). Right after my husband proposed, the disk malfunctioned, and I lost the entire record of our courtship. So many times since then, I've wondered: What did I think of my husband when we first met? What did I think after our first kiss? How did I know I was in love? Even simple details like where we went on our second date have disappeared from my memory after nearly ten years.
This is not to say that you shouldn't save your journal digitally (but make sure you keep a backup copy!) Instead my point is that we forget so much so quickly when we don't write it down. And these years while my children are young - I wish I could capture every moment! I want to remember all of the cute things they said and the fun things we did, but I also want to remember what they found important and how they felt.
"What did you do this week that you want to remember?" my husband and I ask our boys every week. And how fun to see their answers!
To practice writing
In just a year, I've seen my oldest's writing develop from four or five word sentences to four or five sentence paragraphs. "What else could you write?" my husband and I ask him after each sentence. "Is there anything more you could say? What details can you add?"
My five-year-old has gone from dictating to me or his father, to asking us to spell out each and every word, to writing simple sentences on his own.
Even for me as an adult, I find value in attempting to record my thoughts in a cohesive way and to capture my voice on paper. Writing is such an important skill to acquire, and one we can continue to develop throughout our lives.
To value art and creativity
In my own childhood journal, the drawings, not the journal-writing, are definitely the real gems. I remember as teenagers my siblings and I would occasionally pull out our journals and compare scribbles and stick figures (with ridiculous labels like "Grandma doing a somersault"). My own boys labor meticulously over their drawings, and I love to see their creativity in action. And then at the end of each evening, the journal pages go into our three-ring binder, to be oohed and aahed over for years to come.
To be together
"What's that?" my oldest asks his two-year-old brother, pointing to a scribble on the page.
"Daddy's backpack," the two-year-old replies.
"What's that?" my oldest points to another scribble.
The five- and six-year-old dissolve into laughter, and I can't keep the smile off my face. These are moments that are priceless to me, moments that I want to preserve as long as I possibly can.