Keeping records- written 2020
I know it's a weekend, and you may not have even a faint interest in thinking of school today. Great. Neither do I. But I am thinking incessantly about writing everything down.
I hear myself constantly telling the boys that things change. And yet somehow it's as though I am constantly hoping I can stop the very same change from coming. Memories are our only power, and heartbreakingly, they fade. We have no choice but to take good notes.
I have known this for a long time, having been a rather staccato "journaler" myself. But I only recently got the boys into writing their thoughts down.
It all started after a particularly rough day for one of my boys. He just didn't know what to do with himself.
He was desperately looking for some calm, a fish thrashing on the hook. But he didn't recognize the feeling. Fortunately, we had an empty writing pad, a pen, and remarkably a quiet room that night.
That journal entry, whatever it said, saved us some serious distress.
Our kids have so many emotions in those growing bodies. And though their emotions are the same as an adult's, they really don't have the experience or the ability to compartmentalize yet.
It's such a skill to learn to cope. So many grown ups struggle with this on the daily.
In our house, and maybe in many houses, emotions tend to have crash landings. One of the most important jobs of a parent is to lend our kids some calm.
Teaching my boys to keep a journal is my best attempt at that.
This is my middle boy's. Normally it wouldn't be so fancy but we didn't have the time to make one. Wait, we did have the time. It was the patience we lacked. So he took mine, minus the first few pages.
That day I asked the boys to write something that brought them joy. One of my little guy's included a note to his teacher and an entry from his little brother.
I think they all enjoy it now. We even have the baby doing it...
The one downside is that I forgot that I shouldn't teach a baby to use a crayon or pencil because now every corner of our home and just about every item in it has a journal entry.
And I can't imagine that they say anything that important right now. But he finds the writing of them very compelling and always protests when I take away the pencil. I wonder.
If you've ever written in your own journal and returned to it on a somewhat regular basis, I'm sure I don't have to convince you of the benefit. But benefits abound, for the record.
For instance, young adults who have experienced trauma, grief or pain- something perhaps more of us are thinking about these days- are more likely to enjoy some welcome relief if they can write expressively about their feelings?
Also, we are so much more likely to connect with our emotions and try to self regulate if we a- know they are there to begin with and
b- we can give them a name.
Journaling takes care of both of those things.
And as a mom of boys, I have to note-
even if we try to escape it, there is so much tacit pressure on boys in our society to be stoic, resilient and tough.
Lines can become blurry between being imperturbable and being indifferent. And this is dangerous.
By connecting to feelings on a regular basis, little kids develop emotional outlets where all those big feelings can be freely explored.
Life can create such turmoil, and journaling gives us control. And frankly, reading my boy's journal made me so much happier today.
And it WAS a lovely day. We did some eggs and some bunnies and had a glittery blast. (My boy all in black here is being a "spy").
This site looks like it has some great ideas for starting points on how to journal and some excellent prompts.
From my perspective, I think the most important thing is consistency.
Before going to bed, write for ten minutes, and try to include something that brought joy or gratitude.
Our wonderful friend told me she recently started asking her own grandchildren two questions when she picks them up from school (or when she used to).
How was someone kind to you today?
How were you kind to someone today?
Isn't that beautiful! I am going to try to institute that consistently too, especially when we are back at school.
Anyway, I'm a dermatologist, not a psychologist, but I know how profoundly having an outlet has helped me and the boys. So I'm going to keep at it. And I think I'm going to write to you next about acne.
xo, Dr. Swae