A young man burst into the medical office, walked right around the counter and grabbed my wife. This rude interloper hugged her tightly, crying, saying “I love you so much, Mom!” My wife was shocked and then delighted and touched. They had a wonderful, spontaneous, tear-filled moment right there in her office in front of staff and patients. This is certainly not typical teenage boy behavior. What prompted this sudden outpouring of emotion and affection from my teenage son?
The dots are actually easy to connect. A little earlier, he stopped by my office after class and I showed him the journal that my wife kept about him during his childhood. My son spent about an hour reading this journal and all of the memories that it had captured. Then he stuffed it in his backpack and promptly left my office and drove straight to my wife’s workplace to express his love and appreciation. A notebook sparked all of this.
For each of our five children, my wonderful wife kept a little notebook where she jotted down anecdotes, funny quotes, little moments, and dreams. You know all the things that you think you will always remember as a parent but the sad reality is that they get lost to time? She really has them. Moments catalogued and dated. They are a treasure. They are a time capsule of a parent’s love and devotion. These journals stir up nostalgia, laughter, and tears.
When I think about social media and how parents post about their kids, I can’t help but wonder if these digital memories will have the same impact as my wife’s journals. In fact, I think there is a generation of kids that are going to be upset when they get older – “Mom, I can’t believe you put THAT on Facebook!”
One of the biggest differences between social media and my wife’s journals is that the journals are strictly between my wife and kids. The journals are incredibly personal and intimate. Social media is a digital stage that invites the world to judge and validate moments through likes, shares, and comments. Sometimes I wonder what really is motivating parents to post some of what gets shared on social media…
What I love the best about these journals is that they represent a legacy. Unlike the internet, they are tangible and concrete. They can be built upon and perhaps passed on to the next generation so a grandchild or great-grandchild is connecting with preceding generations that are long gone. I’m so grateful that my wife invested the time into these journals and into my children. Her example makes me wonder what I am passing down to my children.
A watch, a military medal, letters, photo albums – little tokens infused with meaning and significance that become the connective tissue from one generation to the next. Totems that represent a legacy. Whatever the item, it only has meaning because of the relationship built around it. I wonder how many items in estate sales were meant to be treasured and passed down instead of sold to the highest bidder?
What are you passing down to your kids?
- Journal or notebook filled with thoughts and memories
- Letters that you write that you don’t give your child until they are 18
- An album of photographs of you and your child
- A collection of “found items” from places you’ve been- napkins, coasters, knick-knacks
- Something that’s been passed down to you that you have talked to your child about and made meaningful to them