Sunday, September 9, 2012

How to preserve childhood memories?

Last week an article I wrote called The Memory Keeper was published on an Australian parenting website. I wrote it right after the incident I describe: going through Facebook to write down baby milestones. If I'm completely honest, sometimes I do this on purpose. I want to announce the milestone to friends and family, of course, but I know that once I publish it in the status box, it's instantly dated, and if I don't get around to filling out the baby book any time soon at least I'll be able to trawl through my status updates for the date of the momentous event later. The key to all this is actually sitting down and filling out the baby book at some stage. I hate filling out forms and so the baby books feel like a chore to me. To say they are 'works-in-progress' is an understatement.

Above right: Miss P thinks ties are only for getting married. She saw some private school boys at the zoo and announced 'Those are flags for married!' Below, a pasted-in picture of the frog that 'just hopped' into the printer all by itself.

I do keep several books which function as a combination of journals, scrapbooks and sketchbooks and so I will often jot down observations, drawings and dialogue in those. This has been a haphazard and fairly random process and I very rarely use the same book to record all the kid stuff. Not a great system.

At our local Japanese restaurant we love to end the meal with green tea ice-cream so Miss P had the right idea...

When I wrote the last paragraph of The Memory Keeper I was sitting in a cafe and I burst into tears. Okay, 'burst' is probably an exaggeration but I did have a little teary. It really hit home to me how much detail just sort of gets lost in time.

Afterwards I made a real effort to write down more regular 'noticings' of what the kids get up to. My system is far from perfect. In fact, I think it is spectacularly flawed and I'm hunting around for a really good way to keep everything together. The notes, the writings, the drawings (mine and theirs) and the photos (oh, the photos...don't get me started! I need a good lie-down whenever I even think about trying to archive them).

What you see here are the kinds of things I record. I will often write down a quote or dialogue between me and Miss P and the drawing is usually unrelated to the words. The drawings are not illustrations. They're just notations in themselves and trigger their own memories for me.

They are not polished drawings or writing; they come from the 'something is better than nothing' school of thought.

JJ eating a rusk in her pram while I have coffee at a shopping centre. Already the rusks are almost history.

After the article came out last week I got some really good ideas from friends about what they do: one I really liked was the idea of a yearly letter or sealed card to your child which they can open years down the track. I like this idea because it's a personal correspondence which your child will always have, and also, you're only required to do it once a year. Completely achievable! I also like another friend's suggestion of having a journal for each child in which she writes down little things about them from time to time, but doesn't have any rules about when or what she writes, which is why it works.

I've been thinking I should dedicate a journal to each child so that they're not fighting over the one book down the track...that's if they're at all interested in it later!

I will be very sad the day she gets the names of things completely right. We gave Kim headphones, of course.

I would love to know how other people record their memories and keep everything together for posterity. I really want to choose a method or a system and just stick to it. I want to do this in a way that's joyful for me (so, very few rules!) but I also want to do it in an organised, chronological way so it's actually a useful record of - if not their childhood exactly - then my experience of it.

So...what do other people do?