How a mom and dad use short, timely notes to create a precious record of their daughters' childhoods. One family's easy solution for preserving fleeting childhood moments

The Coufals in Wahoo, NE

When I think back to my childhood, I can remember only a handful of incidents. There was the time I fell out of a tree and crawled into the house on my hands and knees because the wind had been knocked out of me; the time I got stung by a bee as I was riding my tricycle in the front yard. That's often the way it is: we remember the traumas or a few hard-won triumphs. Other experiences disappear, vanishing beneath the waves in the flow of time.

I hope things will be different for my daughters, Maddie, age 14, Emmie, 13, and Cassie, 9. I want them to remember as much of their younger years as possible. And yet, when Maddie was born, I was at a loss for how I could help make this happen. Keeping a diary sounded wonderful in theory, but like most moms, I was so busy, I knew I'd never be able to find the time to write in a diary every day -- or even every month.

Luckily, when the older girls were still tiny, my husband, Bruce, and I came up with a doable solution. We started taking turns creating what we call personal summaries. Every three months or so, one of us records the milestones, interests, adventures, and -- most important to us -- the cute quirks of each of our daughters. When we started, we agreed to limit each summary to one page, with the idea that they'd eventually be inserted into their baby scrapbooks. By alternating turns, Bruce and I each tackle our pages just twice a year, so the task never seems overwhelming.

And because the smallest glimpses of the past can sometimes be the most meaningful, we also started the Giggle Log. It's a notebook where we jotted down those little utterings that made us smile (the time, for example, when Maddie looked at the star-filled sky and asked me to show her where the big and little "wrenches" were). The entries are messy and brief, but they're there in permanent ink.

The girls have mostly passed through that stage of wacky questions and adorable comments, but we still pull out the Giggle Log and read it as a family for a laugh. We've all but memorized every line. As for the personal summaries, I have managed to slip them into the girls' scrapbooks over the years. It turns out my daughters take great joy in reading about themselves.

In fact, we all love revisiting the summaries. They give us glimpses into the girls' worlds during their first years. And we didn't plan it, but there's something wonderful about the switch between Bruce's perspective and mine. His writings tend to be loaded with humor, while mine take a more sentimental view.

Our hope was to document each daughter's first ten years, and we're almost there. For every precious moment we've grabbed, many more will be forgotten. I'm so grateful we've been able to catch a few before they slipped away.

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