I was an avid diary-keeper as a teenager, sharing the ongoing drama and trauma of attending three very different high schools to the anonymous listener that was my burgundy-bound journal.
From agonizing about my looks—“Yeah, beauty is within, skin deep, whatever. Beauty is everything…”—to worrying about the first day at a new school—“A little nervous…hoping that ppl won’t find me too weird or uncool to talk to. ‘Kay, just get through the first day…be optimistic…”—to where I wanted to be in 10 years—“I wanna speak fluent Hebrew. I wanna be writing for a newspaper. I wanna be married. I wanna have two tiny kids.”
(Three out of four, not bad!)
My diary harbored all my secrets and also serves as a daily history of what I was doing, reading, listening to, and thinking about during those tumultuous teenage years.
So it probably makes sense that a decade later (and thankfully a lot less internally angsty), I started keeping a “Mommy Diary” in which I sporadically record notes on what my kids are doing or saying, things that are going on in the family, and worries and hopes about my kids’ futures. I had been inspired (rebuked?) by an essay I read in which the writer indicated that, like it or not, it’s every mother’s job to be the chief biographer of the family. (Obviously this could be a dad’s job, too. The key thing is that some parent has to do it.) I’ve seen moms who create intricate scrapbooks or take daily videos of their kids. And while I have been known to make a photobook or two in my time, I’m primarily a writer. And now this running Google doc titled “Mommy Diary” has become one of my happiest accomplishments.
Sometimes it reads like jotted notes:
“5/13/11—How Eliyahu breathes with his stomach going up and down, up and down, and keeps one hand rested on his little belly. Eliyahu’s adorable double chin and funny faces as he tries to wake up and figure out his surroundings.”
And sometimes it reads like a letter:
“Nov. 13, 2011—Gavriel is still obsessed with music, saying “mo, mo” whenever a song ends. He loves to dance and hold my hands in his and shake his head like a silly rock star (I taught this to him.)… Gavriel was sick with fever last week and gave us the fright of our life. Thank God he was fine (our thermometer was 2 degrees higher than actual).”
Sometimes it’s me trying to capture a moment in time, like my daughter’s birth:
“June 20, 2013—This was the first one where I got an epidural. I had felt uncomfortable for weeks, and then my water suddenly broke and the contractions were very intense, and I wasn’t handling it well, so I got the epidural. Great move. Sharon and Alona were there for the birth, and Robbie played Yanni’s “In the Morning Light” on his iPhone, and I had the midwife deliver me who had seen me the entire pregnancy. It was actually a powerfully beautiful moment—lying there on the hospital bed, with my friends next to me, listening to this beautiful music—I felt so loved!!”
Or to vent:
“9.I don’t even know the date.2013—I cannot express how hard this stage of life is for me. Each day I have an emotional or nervous breakdown from around 6-8 p.m. No kidding, every single evening… And I haven’t even mentioned how hard outings are with all three of them… getting a library card yesterday, oy horrendous…”
It’s refreshing to read about my low points and to think how much we’ve grown as a family, and it’s elating to recall what my preschoolers were like as infants and toddlers. Sharing these notes with my kids always makes them smile excitedly.
But the real reason I’m updating this every couple weeks or so is to bequeath to my kids and their future spouses a snapshot of who they really were as kids—their struggles and talents, the cute things they said, what excited them and made them tick. Hopefully they’ll see from this labor of love that every day, every moment of their life was something precious to celebrate, and that their mom, a.k.a. the Chief Family Biographer, was out there celebrating it.
And as for nostalgic bedtime reading when I’m an empty-nester, I have a feeling this one will beat the teenage diary!