I perused the shelves of the bookstore, careful not to let my pregnant belly knock anything down. I was drawn to the selection of pretty journals and notebooks; I’ve always loved writing, and journaling in coffee shops used to be one of my favorite hobbies. I hadn’t written a word in over a year, since my son was born. I didn’t have the time or the mental energy after becoming a mom. And now, another baby was on his way in just a few short months. I looked at some flowery hardback journals wistfully before putting them back on the shelf.
That’s when I noticed a small, but thick book titled “Mom’s One Line a Day / A Five Year Memory Book.” Intrigued, I flipped it open. It had space for a few sentences each day for five consecutive years:
I bought it on the spot. This was five years ago, when my son was just learning to walk and I was pregnant with his brother. We had just moved to San Diego and were settling into our new roles: my husband was starting his career as a professor, and I was embracing the stay-at-home-mom life after eight years of teaching special education.
I wrote my final entry last week, on August 25th to be exact. I’ve learned a lot from five years of journaling! Here are 5 reasons to keep a five year journal:
Learn to Reflect
Boiling down my day to three or four sentences was an exercise in choosing what to include and what to leave out. What do I most want to remember about this day? Do I focus on what went wrong or do I celebrate the small victories? Above all, I tried to be true to what I was feeling. There was one day in March where I referred to my three year old as an “inconsolable jerk.” Another day in September I bragged when that same three year old was able to play by himself while I cleaned the house.
I’ve documented the ins and outs of daily life in the most intense stage of parenting: the first five years. I have a little record of what it was really like in the trenches… daily naptime woes, 4:30 AM wake up calls, screaming children, and diaper blowouts. If I just had pictures to look back on during this time, I would only get a warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia for the baby days! “Look at those cheeks! Aw, I miss those baby cuddles.” But the words in my journal remind me of the actual story. One day (March 23, 2014), we were driving from church to a local Mexican restaurant to my meet my in-laws for lunch. Both the toddler and the baby were screaming at the top of their lungs in the backseat. I was staring off into space and sighing deeply. My husband turned to me, his haggard look mirroring my own, and said: “We just need to accept that life is unpleasant right now.” This is not to discount the many beautiful and joyous moments that occur when you’re parenting two under two. But the reality of the hard parts deserve their own space, too.
Recording these stories will help me have empathy for the moms just starting out on their parenting journeys, so that one day I won’t be that annoying lady at the grocery store who comes up to you to reminisce about sweet baby days gone by (as you juggle your newborn in the carrier and try to keep the toddler entertained in the shopping cart!)
Looking back over the past five years, I am filled with gratitude. I know it’s cliche, but we have been blessed (#soblessed). We had the help of all four grandparents for the first three months after I had our second son. I don’t take that lightly; I’m not sure we would have survived the chaos without them. We were also blessed to be surrounded by neighbors in our condo community who were in the same stage of life. Impromptu play dates happened almost daily. Developing those friendships was crucial to my well-being as a young mother. I’m thankful to have a way to look back upon the many blessings we’ve been given over the past five years.
Develop the Right Perspective
“This too shall pass.” It’s cliche for a reason: it’s true. As I look back on the last five years, stages that I thought would last forever did eventually come to an end. Like the stretch of time when William refused to be dropped off at the church nursery. Or the three months when Henry woke up for the day between 4 and 4:30 AM no matter what I tried. Or nursing. Or tantrums. Or changing diapers. You think you’re going to be stuck in whatever season you’re in … until you’re not. It’s comforting to know that the hard parts don’t last. And it’s good to remember that the sweet memories are fleeting as well: all the excitement that holidays bring, and all the adorable “firsts.”
Recording these moments and being able to look back on them gives you a healthy sense of perspective. This too shall pass.
Envision the Future
Glancing down at the empty spaces in the years to come made me wonder “What will my life be like when this newborn is four??” Will we continue on with our family traditions? Will we have the same family hobbies? What words do I hope will fill these pages? In many ways, it will be up to us to determine what kind of lives we want to lead and what kinds of memories we want to make. Those blank lines serve as a gentle encouragement to live all the days of my life with intention.
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