A few years ago, my mom gave me a box with some of the things she kept from my baby years. I took it home to store in my closet, but before I put it away I opened it up and looked through the items she decided to keep for me. Among other things, I found a baby book, and a simple notebook. I flipped through the baby book, the dental hygienist in me interested to see that I was almost a full year old before my first tooth popped through. Next I turned to the notebook. I flipped it open and recognized my mom’s familiar handwriting, the entries dated. My eyes fell on one particular paragraph, a day when I learned to do some basic skill by myself, like tying my shoes or getting dressed. My mom wrote in a tone of pride at my progress, but also sadness, because it was one less thing I needed her to do for me.
That paragraph has stuck with me. In that moment I experienced everything my mom must have felt, not only because I was reading her words but because my own little toddler was in the next room. The truth of her words were never so poignant to me. My kids will only need me like this for so long.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the phrase “The days are long, but the years are short.” It’s become one of those cliche motherhood phrases, but that’s a pity, because it’s true. Motherhood is hard, we fly through the days, cleaning up messes, tying shoes, singing bedtime songs. It’s exhausting, but sometimes I think we forget to see the beauty through the exhaustion when we’re right in the middle of it. Only when we look back do we see the magic of it all.
What if we got better at slowing down and capturing the memories as they’re happening, instead of just looking back with rose-colored glasses?
What if we embraced the messy, difficult parts of raising our children, with our rose-colored glasses on the ready, prepared to emphasize the good and beautiful bits in the midst of the mess?
One way that I think we can do that is by capturing the memories, both through memory-making and memory-keeping.
Making Memories Of Ordinary Moments
It is so hard to figure out how to take an ordinary, everyday moment and make it into a memory that is worth keeping. I think doing this takes intentionality. Making happy memories with our kids in the everyday and messy moments is an art form, and as with any art form it becomes easier with practice. These are a few reminders I give myself.
Remember they won’t always need you the same way they need you now.
This was the lesson I learned from the baby journal my mom kept for me – that there is some relief when your child learns to do something by themselves, but that maybe you shouldn’t rush it too much. Because there is some joy, some reward in doing things for our children, both in the present, and an eternal reward when we serve them as if we were serving Christ. Maybe instead of rushing to button my son’s shirt so we can get out the door, I should take a minute to notice the way he bites his lip as he watches to see how I do it. Maybe instead of whipping the brush through my daughter’s hair, I should enjoy the way it feels in my fingers. Because there will come a day when I can’t do these things for them anymore. Why not memorize the way it feels to do it for them now and serve them with joy?
You can cry, or you can laugh.
The other day I sat down on a chair next to my kindergartner, and I felt something sticky. I put my hand under my leg and felt a big old blob of strawberry jelly on my pants. Did I ask the kids to wipe up the peanut butter and jelly that dripped from their sandwich at lunch? Yes, I did. Were they stifling giggles as they realized I had sat in a spot they missed? Yes, they were. In an uncharacteristic move, I chuckled along with them as I got up to grab the dish towel, and their little eyes sparkled. “You think that’s funny, huh?” and I tickled them. It occurred to me in that moment that I don’t laugh at our missteps as much as I should. When my kids think back to these moments, I want them to remember me laughing more than getting frustrated. That’s hard to remember in the middle of a messy moment, but I think the results – happy memories – are worth some effort.
There are a lot of things I have to say no to as a mom of young children, but my own mom often reminds me to try to say “yes” more than I say “no”. I am not good at this at all, but when I do remember to say yes as much as possible, we end up making a lot more happy memories out of ordinary moments. I want more of that.
Capturing The Memories Before They Slip Away
Once a good memory is made out of a simple moment, it’s nice if it can be captured in some way. I’m not great at remembering things without some external memory-jogger, so memory-keeping has become especially important to me as a mom. And when I come across things like the baby journal my mom kept for me, I am even more motivated because I hope these things will be appreciated by my kids someday too. Here are a few ways I try to capture the memories.
Take a photo.
Photos are great memory-triggers, and with the advent of phone cameras, it’s easier than ever to snap a quick picture of something you want to remember. While there are drawbacks to technology, for me this is truly one of the benefits. I will often notice something sweet about one of my kids and then think of a way to capture it in a photo. Now, you’ll have to know yourself with this one – if taking photos would stress you out too much, just skip it. But for me, taking photos gives me peace of mind that I will be able to look back on that particular moment in time later, and it helps me appreciate the moment more in the present.
Write it out.
A picture is worth a thousand words, but then again, sometimes those words are even better, because they can capture things that a picture might not be able to see. There are so many ways you can write out memories for your kids – baby books, a journal you keep for your child, writing them letters as they grow, even online services that will send you prompts. If you are not sure where to start, A Memory A Day For Moms is a gorgeous book that includes writing prompts for every day over the course of five years. I love this idea! This book would be a great way to become more consistent in recording the things that are worth remembering for your kids.
Store a keepsake.
It is very true that we can’t keep everything, but I think it’s also true that there are some childhood items that are worth keeping. I have a small box for each of my kids, and I put some of their special baby items in there as they outgrow them. A first Christmas dress, baby shoes, a favorite stuffed animal. Things that will trigger a memory for me, and maybe for them too.
Maybe taking photos and keeping a journal just isn’t your thing. I get that! If you’re looking for a way to make memory keeping super simple, check out A Memory a Day for Moms. This beautiful five-year journal includes carefully curated questions and writing prompts. Jot down a single thought, memory, or prayer, and build a treasured keepsake day by day!
How do you capture memories in the middle of the ordinary or messy moments of motherhood?