My new coach, Sharon Lerman, made a suggestion to me at our last session. She told me what her husband, David, had done for his daughters when they were young, and suggested I do the same.
David kept a secret journal for each of his daughters. It was filled with stories of all the times when the girls had done well, when they had excelled, or done the right thing, or had a lot of fun, or whatever it was that was notable and positive. He didn’t write about his fears, or concerns, or the troubles they had with each other. Only the good stuff. The purpose wasn’t to instill wisdom or serve as a parenting guide but to let each daughter feel precious.
He started when they were very young. He used hardbound notebooks he bought at hand when at a bookstore – nothing special. He wrote with a ballpoint; whatever pen was at hand. Months might go by without an entry, but in bed before going to sleep he would write to them in their journals.
As each daughter graduated from 8th grade or so, he met with them privately to give them their journal. As each daughter started high school, he started a new journal for them. As pretty typical 8th graders and high school students, his daughter’s first reaction upon receiving the journals was pretty offhand. In fact they didn’t really even read them until they were in their twenties.
But in October of 2012, David succumbed to cancer. You can read his obituary here, along with a nice quote from one of the journals. His daughter’s reaction to receiving the journals may have been offhand at the time, but now there are few things they treasure as much as those journals.
When Sharon first made the suggestion it hit my ears like another chore, but I realized what a good idea it is. My own mother died of cancer in 2001, and I know how much I would value her words now. When I think about the effort david had made, and the impact of its value on his girls I get choked up. As adults we have plenty of resources to help us find our faults. What we need more of are reminders of why people love us. Why wouldn’t I give that to my girls?
I’ve ordered 3 journals for the girls. My oldest will be 8 fairly soon, and I wish I had started sooner, but better late than never.
[UPDATE] I decided to make one change – the girls are always bugging me to tell them stories from my childhood, so I think I will try to include some entries about my early life. Now I just wish the vendor I ordered the journals from would actually ship them. Too Slow!