Time…it rushes by us parents with the speed of a freight train and pauses just enough for us to catch our breath before rocketing onto the next milestone. Before having children, it was so cliché to blindly accuse time of being too short, yet after children it becomes simply “reality”. Childhood happens. One moment you are staring at a sweet baby, pink with newness, and the next, they are standing proudly on the auditorium stage, cap on their head and diploma in their hand. We sit in the audience tightly clutching a Kleenex, damp with tears, and wonder where the time went, yet we know there was a lot of time in between. Our minds hold frantically to snapshots of the first wobbly step, the wave from the school bus, and the game-winning three-pointer. We waver and begin to wonder if what we are remembering was really how the event happened. In which house was that very first step taken? Were pears the favorite first food or were peaches? What was the first best friend’s name? These quickly passing, cherished moments will bring joy to our lives for years to come, and documenting them is the best way to keep them fresh in our minds.
Perhaps the most obvious method for documenting our children’s lives is through photos. Photography has come leaps and bounds from the SLRs of the 1970s. No longer do we have to purchase film and wait weeks to see how the photos turned out. We get immediate gratification. Photography can seem overwhelming at first, with hugely expensive cameras and lenses, not to mention classes and the time investment to learn the equipment. Lucky for us, most smart phones have a pretty impressive point and shoot camera complete with apps that allow you to add text, filters, and borders to your photos. In order to truly make the most out of your pictures, focus more on capturing the moment and less on requesting smiles from your children. Get down to their level and see what they see. Capture the smiles and the tears because let’s face it, they both happen regularly. Capture the true essence of your children and bring your photos to life. And, above all else, tote the camera with you everywhere. You never know when a moment that you will want to remember may appear.
Aside from the challenge of capturing beautiful photos of our children, the challenge of storing photos can prove to be quite daunting. Printing your favorite pictures on a regular basis can help spread out the workload, and storing the photos in a box labeled with a time frame or event can make finding the pictures later a breeze. Children love looking at pictures of themselves, as well! Decorate a shoebox with your children and place their favorite pictures inside. You can pull down the box on rainy days, snuggle up, and share stories with them. Your photos may start out imperfect from a technical standpoint, but you will get better as you become more comfortable with your camera. Don’t get discouraged that your photos are not always professional quality. What matters most is capturing the moment.
If photography is the way to see the past, writing is the way to hear it. The conversations that occur with our children and the moments of enlightenment when they link concepts together can be heartwarming and hilarious. Write them down. You don’t have to be a world-class writer, but grab a pen (or crayon!) and jot down the conversations. Fold up the pieces of paper and put them into a large jar. When you are having a rotten day, pull one out and read it and your day will magically brighten. Once the jar gets full, transfer them into a scrapbook or notebook and gift it to your child when they are older.
If you enjoy writing, starting a blog is a great way of capturing childhood’s special moments. Not only can you share a story and photos, but you can share your feelings and emotions, as well. Writing in a way that engages all of the senses will take you back to the day for many years to come. Yearly, print your blog posts and add them as chapters to your children’s books.
Once our children start school, it seems as though every day they arrive home with five more pieces of art. At first it is endearing, but then we start to wonder what to do with it. We try to hang it on the refrigerator, but quickly run out of room. And it is all so beautiful that we cannot bear to throw it away. Instead of throwing it out, recycle it into other projects! Cut small hearts out of a watercolor painting, glue them to plain white note cards, and use them for thank you cards from the children. Or fold up pieces of art and weave them. This will create a beautiful, one of a kind, mural that you can hang in the family room. Or cut and laminate old artwork and use it as bookmarks. These are all great gifts that children can create and feel proud about giving. At the end of the school year, sit down with your children and pick a few pieces that they, and you, are especially attached to and store them in a keepsake box with other mementos of the school year. If your child is especially fond of rocks, place one or two in the box; create a time capsule that will bring you back to that year the moment you open it.
The reality is that the time our children are children is oh, so short. Be present as much as you can in their lives and let your inner-child free. Press pause and savor the special moments and press the camera shutter and relive them for many years to come.
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Jodi is a mother to fabulous twin girls, and wife to the world’s most concentrated source of both useless and useful information. In between working full-time, raising the girls, attending school, homesteading, sewing, canning, gardening, and volunteering in the community, she pretty much has no time to do anything else!