Editor's note: This is part of a series of personal stories on resolutions that worked — or didn't — in 2012.
I know I’m in the minority, but I love New Year’s resolutions: The feeling of getting a fresh start, becoming a better “me” is eternally appealing. At this point in my life, I know how the story typically ends, but I’ll still hopefully make three or four resolutions every year, in search of the occasional one that sticks.
Last year, the one that stuck was a family journal, which started more as a feeling than a resolution. My son had just turned 2, and the slow-moving days of his babyhood were a thing of the past, replaced by days that seemed a river of activity. I wanted to slow down enough to capture at least a few of the currents: the funny things he said; his new discoveries; and our new family traditions and adventures.
But how to do it? I had unsuccessfully started a family blog when he was a baby. Somehow, posting a picture and a caption every week or two was too much work. We took a million pictures, great in themselves, but that meant we had to remember the context (not our strong suit). I took occasional random notes on my computer, but somehow, perhaps because my computer was mostly a work tool, that didn’t last either.
So one day, early in 2012, while we were sitting down to breakfast, I grabbed an empty journal that I had given my husband on a whim years before — one of those ingenious spiral-bound notebooks made of a recycled children's book (Scuffy the Tugboat). In between breakfast chat (“Please come back to the table,” “No more maple syrup, well, okay, just a little bit,” “How about a spoon this time?”), I wrote down a few notes about what we’d done the day before, and drew a picture.
I put Scuffy on the bookshelf next to the kitchen table, and a couple of days later, grabbed it at dinner. Each of us talked about our highlight of the day, and I wrote it down. I drew another picture. Later, I found one of my favorite pens, and tied it to the journal so that there would always be a writing tool attached to it. (Convenience was key to this little project) And so we started. And kept it up, every few days through the whole year, and almost always at meals.
Nothing’s perfect about it. First, I am bad at drawing. (This is fact; my husband has asked several times if one of my drawings was by our son, Isaac.) Luckily, my husband, who is a good artist, will sometimes take a turn with the pen.) The entries are random. At the beginning, I had the idea that it would be a gratitude journal, but that fizzled and it became a mismatched collection of quotes, notes, memories and drawings. It is messy. At one point, Isaac started grabbing the pen and scribbling on pages, sometimes almost covering up my notes.
But it works. Writing at meals works for us — that’s when we have a little extra time together for remembering and reflection. I love that Isaac now recognizes and wants to “draw,” too. The messiness and inconsistency of the journal capture our life right now.
I also love that we don’t have to press a power button to read the small gems that jump out from every page: The time Isaac told me he missed his Dada like “miss a bus” — trying to reconcile the two meanings of that word and capturing both how much he misses his dad when he’s at work, and the time he and I ran for the bus and just missed it. The endless series of garbage truck drawings, which capture the growth of his current obsession, accompanied by a note about Isaac’s idea that we should start a family garbage-truck museum. (Not a bad idea, eh?) And the occasional more personal entry from me, such as the note about the day I, frustrated by a 3-year-old’s continual request for “uppie,” asked Isaac if he would carry me one of these days.
He thought about it for a minute and then said, “When you’re small and I’m big, I’ll carry you, Mama. And when Dada’s small and I’m big, I’ll carry him, too.”
In our Scuffy journal, all I wrote was that quote. That’s all I need to relive the feeling — part tears, part joy, part chills — it gave me.