The day I found out I was pregnant, I started to write.
I had always been a writer at heart, starting with my third grade diary and continuing into college when I studied journalism. But a career shift to social work, marriage and just the regular business of life had made me into a writer in theory only, and the urge to write hadn’t grabbed me in a long time.
The first thing I did when pregnancy became a reality for me, though (after a long and tearful hug with my husband), was to buy a journal. I had so many thoughts going through my head, so much energy coursing through my body, that the only thing I could think to do was get it on paper.
I still remember going into Barnes and Noble that same afternoon, wanting to stop every person in the store to tell them the good news, and picking up with shaking hands the little red leather journal that is now one of my most valuable possessions.
More than 10 years later, being a parent is still my greatest joy in life. I certainly can’t claim to have done everything, or even most things, right, nor do I mean to suggest that I have felt constant elation through all the challenges of parenting. And there are many challenges. But what I do know is that it’s the good stuff that I remember the most, and if it weren’t for that little red book, I might not remember some of the best stuff.
From that first day in Barnes and Noble on, I have kept the red journal at my bedside and used it to record the funny, mischievous and insightful things my daughter did and said, all the little things that felt, to me, like astounding leaps in the development of this small person.
Sometimes, I’d write every few days, other times I might go months without an entry. Sometimes, I was motivated to write simply by the thrill of a new experience with my daughter or an insight into what it means to be a parent; other times, I very clearly recognized that this was something I would want to remember forever.
When I read that journal now, I laugh out loud, and I’m amazed how much I’ve forgotten. How much I would never have thought of again if I hadn’t written it down. My daughter loves the little red book, too, and over the years we’ve had many good laughs reading it together. I’m pretty certain she feels the love in that book.
Writing, I know, isn’t something that grabs everyone. But the medium isn’t what’s important, it’s the remembering. Maybe you like to take photographs, and the visual image is what triggers those wonderful memories. I know someone who jots down her child’s milestones and quote-worthy phrases on a calendar in the kitchen and saves it every year. Perhaps you draw, or scrapbook, or just re-tell family stories around the dining room table.
It doesn’t really matter how you remember, as long as you do. Parenting is full of good stuff, but the moment passes quickly. Find your way to hang onto it, and share it with the child who makes remembering so much fun.
Sarah Johnson is a mother and coordinator of The Parenting Place. She is also a member of the Healthy Mesa County parenting action team. Read her every other Thursday on HealthyMesaCounty.org.