As a new parent, the temptation to preserve the early days and 'create lasting memories' is huge. I blame maternal hormones on the fact that I recently indulged in professional baby photos for my youngest child. There are plenty of options out there for the sentimentally inclined- you can cast your little one's first shoes in bronze, imprint their hand and footprints in plaster or frame their precious first lock of hair. I always seem to be getting some sort of special offer, courtesy of the parenting newsletters I innocently subscribed to when I had the time during pregnancy.
I have three children (9yrs, 7yrs and 3 months) and my favourite keepsake is definitely the book I started writing a few years ago that I call 'Kid's Quotes.' It contains all the funny, odd, confused and miscellaneous things worth remembering that my children come out with. It's a work in progress and it's priceless. Here's how it came about. I remember feeling helpless and frustrated when my children were toddlers …they weren't able to express themselves but they clearly wanted something in particular, which ended up as an endless series of grunts and whinges.
I can still hear myself (in my own adult whiney voice), 'What is wrong with you?' 'What do you want?' 'Do you want your dummy?' 'We'll be home soon, be patient!' 'I just wish they could talk so I could actually know what they want!' I recall saying to my husband.
I don't remember when it started, but one day they could talk and then there was no keeping them quiet. One day they said something that I wanted to tell my husband when he got home (who was probably the only adult I would come into contact with that day!). Having lost most of my brain's recall function during pregnancy I wrote it down. That scenario happened time and time again. It's been a few years now since I started and I have a collection of sayings, comments and questions that really give an insight into my children's personalities. I can delight in their developing sense of humour and become more in tune with how the world looks from their point of view.
Some examples: on a trip to the hairdresser my son said he wanted his hair just like Grand-dads- 'short on the sides and nothing on top.' Trying to get my son to brush his teeth I said to him 'If you don't brush properly your teeth will turn black and fall out and it will only hurt you.' He replied 'Yes, but you'd be embarrassed.'
Reading over the entries, one child is consistently more thoughtful and ponders the future, 'I just don't know what I'm going to do with the rest of my life.' The other child focuses more on the here and now. 'If my feet are dirty why can't I just wash my feet? Why do I have to wash my whole body?'
Not everything that comes from my children's mouths is what I want to hear but usually it's honest and sometimes it challenges me to be a better parent. I was recently asked 'Mum, why is it that you act nicer when you're at other people's houses than when you're at home?' My middle child has not yet learned the art of tact. He wanted to know 'are you pregnant again because your tummy kind of looks like you might be.' The answer was no- I've only just had a baby!
I have a feeling some of the quotes will be used as speech material at the kid's 21st birthdays. It doesn't cost anything to do, you just need a pen and paper and a few minutes now and again. Of course you could do it all electronically but I love the simplicity of being able to read the pages in my own handwriting. I'm enjoying listening to the gurgles of my new little one for now but I have to admit I'm looking forward to her talking so I can add it to my book. It's said that a picture paints a thousand words but in this case I don't think pictures alone tell half the story.
Donna MacFarlane is married with three children and is a former Olympic athlete, now living in Western Australia.
Donna's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/donna-macfarlane.html