Family Matters
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Family Matters

In Journaling, a Remembrance of Their Childhood

Writing about my daughters’ growing up years — the mundane, ordinary, special, and joys and heartaches in between — is my gift of memory to them

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

A few years ago, my niece, then 16, asked me to tell her stories about her childhood. She said she wished her mother had written about them when they were young so she could remember her growing up years. I thought about my two daughters, a toddler and baby, and my desire to write again in my diaries. That desire had remained a plan over the years from my first pregnancy to my second child turning three. I had the usual reasons: work, two children, other responsibilities, life — they all kept me busy.

A year and a half ago, after personal struggles and a career shift, I finally started writing again. Today, I’m on my 14th journal, and writing everyday.

My journals are filled with stories about my children, but not just of them. They’re filled with things I plan to do and did every day, notes and reflections about the day, where I went, weekly goals, passages from books that struck me, inspiring quotes, a list of books I read, drawings from my daughters, and daily intentions. To be calm. To be thankful. To be mindful. To be intentional. My own version of bullet journaling.

The intent to write — about their childhood and our life together — is what makes me write everyday. Sure, there are days when I would rather browse online or read a book. But I make an effort to catch up on my writing, because I realize these days are precious.

My daughters are now seven and four years old, and I find myself writing mostly about the mundane and ordinary. Isn’t that what life is mostly about? Like funny things our youngest says, such as “Chewcabba” instead of Chewbacca, “locking chair” for rocking chair, and “chicken” for kitchen. Lately, she enjoys having a “cons-per-tation” (conversation) with her father.

Their little heartaches are recorded in my pages, like the time our four-year-old’s band-aid fell on the sea and floated away and she couldn’t stop crying. We had to go back to the beach and say a proper goodbye to the band-aid for her to get over it.

Their achievements I proudly document, such as our eldest learning to ride a bike, playing classical music on the piano, and winning chess against the computer.

Their sweet words and our sweet exchanges I note with love.

“I love you, Mama,” says our youngest.

“I love you, Willow,” I tell her.

“No, you should say, ‘I love you too, Willow,’” she says, exacting.

“I love you too, Willow,” I repeat.

There are plenty of stories about bedtime. They ask about the coronavirus, about heaven, about our family members who have passed away. We take turns telling stories and ask about the moral lesson and their favorite parts — a way to check if everyone listened. They like to tell stories of princesses and fairies and sisters.

Then there are special days — birthdays, Christmas, New Year, and the events we make for them: moving-up ceremony at home after schools closed, picnics at home, driving around town.

In journaling, I make it easy on myself so that I can write consistently. I follow the bullet journal method and have adapted it to my specific needs. I like to do long-form writing, but I don’t write about everything, just the ones that I like to note.

Recently, I made a kids index in my journals. The list looks like this:

  • Funny things they say
  • Bedtime
  • Little heartaches
  • Play
  • Naughty
  • Studies
  • Sweet and thoughtful
  • Out and about
  • Drawings from my kids

I write about things ordinary and special because I want them to remember how they were like growing up, not just through a pandemic, but in days before and after. I hope that they will appreciate our time together. They’ll probably laugh at their antics. They may or may not even read my journals, but I still write. Because above all, I want them to remember and know that they are loved, that the writing of their childhood is a gift of love to them.

I write not just for my children but also for myself, a way for me to review each day and recollect. I smile as I write about the happy and funny. I pause as I think about the sad and difficult. Memories cease to be fleeting and become permanent as I set the words on the page.

As I write this, the children keep interrupting me, playing with my face and laughing. I look at their faces, wide and open, no longer babies, and realize, not for the first time: they do grow up so fast.

But in writing about their days, I hope to slow down time and keep them forever young.



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Debbie Rodolfo

Debbie Rodolfo

Writer, mother, book lover, businesswoman, traveler from the Philippines ||