If you’re looking for a way to stay connected to your child emotionally as they traverse this upcoming school year, perhaps you should consider becoming journal buddies. For Christmas this past year, I gave my two oldest daughters a new journal called The Big Life Journal. It has quotes, stories, and activities embedded in it that helps children think about topics such as finding their purpose, being mindful, and the power of self-awareness. In fact, I was drawn to the idea of this journal because of the description online:
This growth mindset journal empowers children to face challenges with confidence, embrace mistakes, and know they can learn anything!Big Life Journal- 1st Edition
I’m always looking for ways to stay connected, and this I assumed would be the easiest. Now, 8 months into the process (we sit down and talk on Sunday evenings about our journal topic for the week), I’m still blown away by how much I’ve learned about each of them (and how much they’ve grown). But nothing could have prepared me for the conversation I had last night with Riles.
Last night’s journal entry was about mindfulness, specifically understanding the value of giving someone your undivided attention. We talked about what it communicates to another person when you provide your undivided attention to them, and how it feels when someone does that for us. It’s really a gift. I love this quote from the journal entry:
Your presence is the most precious gift that you can give to another person.Marshall Rosenberg
It’s usually during these journal check-ins each week that I have my own aha! moments about what’s going on with the girls, or how I’m doing as a father. Sometimes it’s affirming, sometimes it’s slightly alarming, but always it’s informing. Last night was no different. Both Olivia and I struggle with the concept of mindfulness, simply trying to be present and enjoy what’s happening now. So for us, the past few weeks (the topics stretch over a month) have been good exercises in growth areas.
For Riles, our conversations constantly go deep, quickly. After reflecting about the quote, she read one of her journal entries which caught my attention. It was about how she feels when she’s noticed, and specifically it was tied to her sense of self-worth and purpose. I won’t divulge our full conversation, but what I learned was how she currently sees herself and why. Quite frankly, it brought me to tears. On the outside, my oldest daughter seems to have it all together: super smart, talented, likable, responsible, you name it. She’s the one her teachers constantly tell us, oh, I don’t have to worry about Riley. Turns out, just like any other kid she has her insecurities, and a big one is constantly feeling overlooked. She’s the quiet introvert in a world that won’t stop talking. So when she articulated so clearly last night her desire to be really seen and heard, it was like a gut punch. It took everything in me not to respond by “fixing” how she was feeling and instead simply listen, ask her to tell me more, and finally remind her how special she is.
After journal time, I went downstairs and shared my reflections with my wife. This is also one of my favorite times of the week, because she constantly has good ideas and usually already intuitively knows what I’m learning through reflection with the girls. But It’s the power of reflections that I love- and it’s the main reason why I wanted to do this with them. As they get older, I want to be a part of their evolving self-awareness about their lives. This weekly journal time might be my ticket into the inner workings of their minds. I’ve just got to be ready when they do open up and share.