As with any non-fiction book, my new book, Humpty Dumpty Just Needed a Nap, will be much more meaningful to you if you journal your way through it. To help you, I am going to be writing for the next few weeks about practical ways to apply the things we are learning via the children’s stories featured in the book. But, to start with, let’s talk about WHERE to write your insights down.
Other than my personal journal, where I write down daily life with the kids, I have two others pertaining to mothering:
In Louisa May Alcott’s, Little Men, Josephine March Baer, known to Little Women lovers simply as Jo, introduces us to a lovely parenting tool. On Sunday evenings, she sat upstairs in her study with a leather book which had sections for each boy in her school. One by one, she called them to her, looked over last week’s entry, asked follow up questions, and took notes on how the boy had done that week, in school, with the other boys, personal growth, etc.
Isn’t that awesome? I cannot imagine a child who wouldn’t like such one-on-one attention. Not only does it show the child the good things that are being noticed, but also the not-so-good things. But rather than these things being cause for shame, they were looked at as something to be worked on, a little here, a little there. Because notes were taken every week, major disasters were diverted and behavioral surprises minimized.
Several years ago, Ian and I searched for a large leather-bound journal with enough pages to accommodate six children times eighteen years of assessments. We finally settled on one with a buttery soft cover that wrapped around cream colored pages. I divided it up into six sections, wrote each child’s birth story on their first page, with plenty of other pages to record major developments, strengths and interests, and other odds and ends that might point them toward a future hobby or profession.
When three-year-old Ben said, ‘God made me to build,’ I grabbed the journal. Would that all life callings come with that clarity. Since then, he has proven his interest and ability in this area, starting with K’Nex, Legos, Rocken Bok, and moving into Lego Mindstorm Robotics, carpentry, knife making, and the study of architecture. I did not force him into these things, but simply made short notes along the way. Age three: God made me to build. Age five: wants Legos for Christmas. Age 12: bored to death, asking for Lego Mindstorm as his only gift. Add that to his disinterest in reading, his ability to follow maps, fix alarm clocks, navigate, and you see the clues of his life adding up to be that he is extremely spatial. He is now, at age 16, he is a professional 3D artist.
God did, it appears, make him to build. And how precious it is to see the trajectory of his life, from babyhood to near-adulthood, on the page.
In the day of StrengthsFinder 2.0, Meyers-Briggs personality testing, and any number of other strengths portfolios, what could be more useful to a child, teenager, or adult, than reading an account of his parent’s observations taken at various times during his childhood. Even if you don’t have the bandwidth to meet with your child each week, even a yearly summary of accomplishments, points of growth and maturity, and a list of interests can give your child direction in life. What a gift!
The second section of my notebook is for me. Here is where I keep mothering tips, encouraging quotes, or things I want to work on as a mom. It is in this section that you can work through the workbook questions and chewing points from my upcoming blog posts. I’ll keep repeating myself here, but don’t worry about answering every question; just pick the ones that fit where you are right now. This is the place you work on the inner you, developing and building yourself up so that you can be the best mama you can be. These are your pages, where you can go on ‘those days’ to remind yourself why it is you are doing what you’re doing, who God wants you to be, and how to hold on when things get tough. I paste magazine articles and inspirational pictures in mine, but you artistic sorts can draw pictures, write lyrics of meaningful songs, copy down poetry, or whatever fills your spirit with love, peace, and joy.
Your mama journal will be a never-ending beautiful work of art, a gift to you this time…