There are many things I will not be able to pass on to my children. There are many flaws I have. I can’t give them horseback riding lessons. I don’t have an inheritance set up for them, much less a college fund. They also don’t have a mother who knows how to knit, or throw specially themed birthday parties, or who can teach them about which fork is the right one to use at a dinner party.
They will learn other things from me of course; I do have some gifts and skills to pass on to them that are unique to me, because I am not their mother by accident and I know God has allowed me to raise them for a reason and for them to raise me for a reason.
And given the context of who we are and what we can offer them, I think mothers generally want to capture or honor our children’s childhood and experiences in some sort of way. We are cognizant of how precious and short the time is that we are allowed to raise our children so we each sort of find our own ways to memorialize that. I am not a scrapbooker. I tried for a few months once with my first born but quickly abandoned it. I admire those women who do have the patience and skill and organization to devote to scrapbooking but that is not me.
I am however, a writer. And I write to my children. I began before they were even born. And want to encourage others to do so as well. I fully believe that the permanence of ink on paper is different than the old family blogs we all used to keep. I love media and I love my computer. But my flesh and blood child needs to know that I intentionally turned off the glowing lights every now and then, and that this woman placed herself in silence and thought of nothing but communing with him, whether he was in the next room sleeping or in a whole different state at the moment. My thoughts were with him. And the paper was touched by me. And the ink stained my fingers and sometimes smudged the page. And I breathed on my words. Occasionally there is even the stain of a teardrop on the paper.
When we write with pen on paper; it is real, and tangible and permanent. And the very medium is part of the message. I keep a journal for each child and write whenever I make time to… (sometimes it’s even months or years in between entries!) The journals evoke the sense of sight, touch, and smell. They are more real than the pictures I post online gushing about my children. I sometimes paperclip a real photo in the book. I sometimes keep the little scribbles they’ve made on the church envelopes and tuck those into the books. This is effortless scrapbooking. When each child turns 18, I will surrender their journals to them. So far, they don’t even know of their existence. And they can look back and know the inner parts of me at certain points of their life. The mystery in the question “What was my mother thinking?!” will be partially answered… not exactly with abandon (I am mindful that they are still my children… not the keepers of my every heartache), but at least with authenticity.
Write to your babies. It doesn’t have to be a long, multi-paged ballad singing their praises. It can be a simple note that you were praying for them that day or a funny thing they said or something you appreciated. The point is to do it. To make incarnate the fact that you were thinking of them.
I imagine our grown up children being delighted and grateful to be given something real in a world where real seems increasingly difficult to find.