What is the most meaningful gift you have ever been given? For me, it was memories. On my 30th birthday, my stepmother gave me a scrapbook. She had lovingly filled a leather-bound book with photos, with notes and stories written in the margins—thirty years of memories. My stepmother gifted me the story of my life.
What a wonderful gift to give your child: a record of their life as seen through your eyes. A collection of memories of you and your child, living life together. A gift of love celebrating an important milestone, such as graduating school, getting married, or the arrival of their first child. This collection of memories could be the greatest gift your child ever receives.
It could also be the legacy you leave, to comfort the brokenhearted.
We want to believe there will always be more time, but the truth is, no one knows just how much they can leave behind. Lately, I have been compiling a binder for my wife, in the case of my own death. The binder contains instructions for my funeral, access to insurance documents, passwords to my computer and phone, and anything else I can think of to prepare my wife in case I am no longer available. From week-to-week I kept telling myself, “I’ll get to it next week. There will be more time.”
As parents, as people, we want to believe there will always be another week. Yet, imagine you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Your idea of “next week” shifts. You no longer put these difficult tasks off for a future time because your future has a limit. It is a gift; one that removes all excuses, all of the putting off. What you have is now, because you know next week doesn’t exist. But very few people actually know when their time is coming.
Recently, over just a two-week span, five people in my circle have lost loved ones under fifty-years-old. One of these was my real estate partner. After months of Covid lockdown, and a two-month delay because his wife’s passport came late, he was finally able to visit his family in Mexico. Certainly, a happy reunion. But three days into the trip, with the family gathered in the living room enjoying being together, his sister suddenly collapsed. She died of a stroke in his arms. Only 44, she left behind a husband and three children.
Who knows if next week will come? Savor, then, and remember the magic moments with your child.
I want to remember every moment I have with my children. I don’t know about you, but my memory is terrible. My brain has no easy recall function like a computer. So, I capture the magic moments to create something for my child and myself to remember our lives together. And what better memory tool than a scrapbook or journal? A form that will last.
I have been journaling to my children since 2003, when my oldest was just one month old. I made a commitment—to myself and my children—that I would create at least one entry per month through their entire childhood. I write down the moments that stand out to me, the advice I want them to remember, and their achievements. For eighteen years, I have kept my commitment.
Your scrapbook, your binder, the memories of your child’s life, are not things to create once-and-done. Do not put them off for next week. Create instead a habit of capturing your child’s life as they live it. Make a monthly or weekly commitment to write in a journal, record a video diary, compile photos with notes, or edit videos into a montage. Go digital or analog; the possibilities are endless. Find the activity that works best for you, and make it a habit.
By developing this habit, you will learn to recognize and acknowledge the moments in your child’s life that matter. You will begin to see the magic moments everywhere.
Magic moments can be big: a graduation or wedding, winning a race or science fair. And they can be small: that time you both laughed until you cried, snuggled after a hard day at school, drank hot chocolate with marshmallows by the fire, the first time they peeled their own orange. Magic moments are the ones you want to remember, and the ones your child will be glad that you captured so that they can remember them too.
When you learn to recognize and acknowledge the magic moments, and when you develop a habit of capturing them regularly, the time you spend with your children will become more intentional. Think of the dividends this labor of love will pay out. You will be more present in every moment you spend with your child, as you are always watching for the magic moments. You will actively create moments that matter, filling your child’s life to bursting. You will create memories and a legacy.
Every entry in your journal will remind you of your love for your child. Every entry will also remind them of your love, when you give them this gift. With every entry you will build your legacy, what you will leave behind. But your legacy is also active in the present. It is the trail you carve and the wake you cut. As you develop your habit of journaling to your children, your legacy will grow in your everyday life.
The legacy you leave in a collection of captured memories might be the greatest gift your child every receives. And it could become their fondest memory of you.