I’m about to start my fifth year of a “Ten Year Journal” and I can now say that using this journal has had a tremendously positive impact on my parenting.
Way back here I asked for advice on how best to record my days as a mother to young children. I ultimately decided to start a Ten Year Journal on my computer. The concept is simple but the rewards have been very rich.
Here’s how I do it:
– I created a document on my computer and I put the day’s date:
– Then, underneath it I write the year:
– Next to the year I write a note about that day.
That’s it. Every day I move my way down, and when I get to the beginning of a new year, I scroll to the top of the document and put the new year (2012) and entry beneath the old year’s entry for January 1st. Then a year later I write 2013 and that January 1st’s entry.
My Ground Rules
I’m sure I say this often on the blog, but I’ve found in my life that things done consistently over time yield the greatest results. I’ve found that in order for me to do something consistently, it needs to be linked to a habit I already have, and it needs to require very little willpower to begin. (Interesting reading on establishing new habits: tinyhabits.com and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg)
So I put journaling in my evening routine, and I promised myself I only had to write ONE thing about my day. The journal entry was not going to be exhaustive or daunting in any way. It could just be one sentence. That way, it was very easy to sit and hammer something out. The beauty of getting started though is that more often than not I end up wanting to write more.
Last night, I sat down to write something from my day and I had the pleasure of skimming through other entries from that day in previous years:
2011 – We had tithing settlement and loved watching Caitlyn tromp up and down the hallway in her “new” brown boots while Mackenzie tried to shepherd her and sneak in some handholding.
2012 – Lots of snow! I’m getting a little wistful already, thinking of this as possibly my last big snowstorm. It’s our seventh Ohio winter. Mackenzie asked me while sucking on Christmas candy, “What are these supposed to do anyway? What are the gobs supposed to stop? Plus, what IS a gob?”
2013 – We are writing and drawing thank you notes for Christmas presents and Caitlyn saw a picture Mackenzie painted. Initially she thought it was a man and complimented Mackenzie on it enthusiastically. When she was corrected, she said “Oh Mackenzie, what a nice pair of pajamas you painted! It’s beautiful and it just warmed my heart.”
I laughed and shared a bit with Scott, who was sitting nearby.
Personally, I struggle with time as mother of young children. Sometimes the moments (and messes) stretch on forever, and other times my kids are growing up so fast that their days of being tiny are slipping through my fingers (and through the holes of my leaky memory).
Sometimes the fast and the slow happen at the same time. Always, though, I find that perspective helps.
When I look back on a difficult day, it gives me patience through the difficulties I’m currently facing. I see I’ve survived hard things in the past and it is a confidence boost that I’ll be able to handle whatever comes next.
2013 – In the space of 15 minutes, Mackenzie threw up all over (missed the barf bowl), Caitlyn got buckled in her high chair while I cleaned up the mess and promptly dumped a glass of water all over herself and wailed, and Daniel bounced happily in his doorway jumper… with poop up to his armpits. Scott was working late again and Tiffany was bringing dinner for our swap and she walked right into the crazy. It was definitely a memorable night!
Sometimes reading a previous entry allows me to celebrate the end of a difficult phase that I’d left behind without even realizing it.
2013 – Bedtime is so exhausting and discouraging lately. Scott and I are constantly strategizing how to make it a more positive experience for everyone. How do scriptures, family prayer, teeth, hair, jammies, personal prayer, song, and snugs and kisses turn into a battle? At least one of us always ends up in tears and I confided to Scott tonight “I’d rather pick up poop of the carpet than try to get these kids in bed!” and to my surprise, he readily agreed.
When I look back on an entry that highlights how much my kids have grown and changed in the time since I wrote it, I enjoy reliving the sweet moments that have past and it’s a reminder to cherish the current time even more. (And I have more peace about those moments being in the past because I know they aren’t lost!)
2013 – Today I woke Caitlyn up from her nap and with characteristic good humor, she was grinning and humming me a song. When I asked her if she was ready to get out of the pack and play she said “Just after I finish humming this song.” Sure enough, she finished up and then was ready. :)
2011 – Another easy day for Scott. He was able to see us in the morning and return home just past 3 in the afternoon. This rotation has been such a breath of fresh air. Mackenzie Anne Bean informed Scott she gave Columbus, Ohio a third name as well: Larry.
Of course journaling in general brings so many benefits. Topping the list for me: time for self-reflection and a family history to pass on to my children.
This 10 year format in particular, though, has been tremendously encouraging and grounding for me as a mother. Every night as I reflect on our day I see clearly that the things that matter most are not usually the places we went or the things we’ve accomplished but are far more commonly the funny, sweet, or tough moments we’ve shared as a family. I know I recognize and savor those moments more in my day now and keeping 10 Year Journal lets me preserve them for when I need them.
I know some moms who sneak into their kids’ rooms at night after a difficult day and watch them sleep to remind themselves of the sweetness of childhood and to soak up some shared peace and air with their kids. Typing up my journal entry and seeing poignant moments from the past laid before me serves a similar purpose, I suppose, without risking waking anyone up! ;)