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When my kids were little, I wrote short snippets capturing our daily lives. Now they're teens, and this window into our past is priceless.

Eileen Hoenigman Meyer   

When my kids were little, I wrote short snippets capturing our daily lives. Now they're teens, and this window into our past is priceless.
  • My kids are 15 months apart and I was very sleep deprived when they were little.
  • I started writing snippets of our days together to remember all the memories.

It took me almost a year to calculate that my kids, Sylvia and Nico, were 15 months apart. When Nico was a newborn, people regularly commented on my "full hands" and asked me how close the kids were in age. My response was well-rehearsed but vague: "She's just about a year older than him." I was too sleep-deprived to do the math.

Life with little kids is as overwhelming as it is glorious. Amazing, hilarious, ridiculous things happen constantly. It takes over the household and almost creates a new language — words assume unique pronunciations. Everything gets a nickname or a song.

Because it's so rich, real, and encompassing, it's tempting to assume it's unforgettable. But the details disappear like the baby toys that get boxed up and socked away as the kids outgrow them.

I found my own way to capture memories

I am not a good photographer. I am not crafty. I had a hard time committing to baby books and scrapbooks, but I share the urgency that these devices address. I wanted to capture the details of this stage of our lives, but it had to be easy and accessible if I was going to stick to it while juggling the demands of full-time work and raising babies.

I bought a little notebook for each kid, and I started writing short snippets about them whenever I could steal a minute. Early in the morning, right before bed, during screen or naptime, I would jot down the date and a few details from their day: What was the weather like, and how did that impact our activities? What did they seem to think of our adventures? What new foods did they try? What did they learn? What did they say? Who did they meet?

I captured some big milestones: sitting up, rolling over, and first steps. Writing in a free format also gave me room to chronicle smaller developments, like the first time the kids saw a fireworks display, had an argument, went to a birthday party, took a solo trip down the slide, caught a ball, or got a time out.

It's not tidy at all, but that's not the point

I didn't write every day. I only wrote when I had time and material. Sometimes, my husband Greg wrote a snippet. If a grandparent, aunt, or uncle was over, I invited them to note what they observed about the kids or to detail what they did with Sylvia and Nico during their visit.

The snippets aren't tidy. My handwriting is terrible, and I was usually in a hurry. Plus, with a slew of guest contributors, the entries are far from uniform. Still, the narratives offer vivid accounts of our daily lives and the wonderful personalities that were taking shape during those hectic days.

I stopped writing in their notebooks when the kids started school. More of their experiences were happening outside our house, and school projects and events offered new ways to chronicle those.

Greg and I would pull the notebooks off the shelf and read them when we felt nostalgic, but my kids were not interested in their recent past. I think they found it embarrassing to hear how thunder once scared them, what they thought about popcorn the first time they tried it or the details of some random rainy afternoon we all spent doing puzzles in our pajamas.

The snippets remind us of what life used to be like

Sylvia and Nico are now in the early stages of young adulthood, and they've developed a capacity for nostalgia. They have their own memories, perspectives, and interests in their past.

We live in a different house now, and the one the kids grew up in has changed hands twice. But these little snippets offer us a glimpse of what it felt like to be there early in the morning, at dinner time, and in the middle of the night. Our little paper notebooks are an ever-open window into our past. They capture granular details of the babies, toddlers, and new parents who started a life together there.


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