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A Gift of a Secret Journal

My new coach, Sharon Lerman, made a suggestion to me at our last session. She told me what her husband, David, had done for his daughters when they were young, and suggested I do the same.

David kept a secret journal for each of his daughters. It was filled with stories of all the times when the girls had done well, when they had excelled, or done the right thing, or had a lot of fun, or whatever it was that was notable and positive. He didn’t write about his fears, or concerns, or the troubles they had with each other. Only the good stuff. The purpose wasn’t to instill wisdom or serve as a parenting guide but to let each daughter feel precious.

He started when they were very young. He used hardbound notebooks he bought at hand when at a bookstore – nothing special. He wrote with a ballpoint; whatever pen was at hand. Months might go by without an entry, but in bed before going to sleep he would write to them in their journals.

As each daughter graduated from 8th grade or so, he met with them privately to give them their journal. As each daughter started high school, he started a new journal for them. As pretty typical 8th graders and high school students, his daughter’s first reaction upon receiving the journals was pretty offhand. In fact they didn’t really even read them until they were in their twenties.

But in October of 2012, David succumbed to cancer. You can read his obituary here, along with a nice quote from one of the journals. His daughter’s reaction to receiving the journals may have been offhand at the time, but now there are few things they treasure as much as those journals.

When Sharon first made the suggestion it hit my ears like another chore, but I realized what a good idea it is. My own mother died of cancer in 2001, and I know how much I would value her words now. When I think about the effort david had made, and the impact of its value on his girls I get choked up. As adults we have plenty of resources to help us find our faults. What we need more of are reminders of why people love us. Why wouldn’t I give that to my girls?

I’ve ordered 3 journals for the girls. My oldest will be 8 fairly soon, and I wish I had started sooner, but better late than never.

[UPDATE] I decided to make one change – the girls are always bugging me to tell them stories from my childhood, so I think I will try to include some entries about my early life. Now I just wish the vendor I ordered the journals from would actually ship them. Too Slow!

3 comments… add one
  • Terry Murray March 17, 2013, 1:13 pm

    Steve, What a great idea! And absolutely tell them about your early life, your parents, what you know of their history, etc. They may not care about it when they’re 13 or 14 – but they will be glad to have the books (and the information and love they contain) when they’re older. My father never told us much about his parents – I never even saw a photo of them (they had both died by the time I was born). In fact, I never saw any pictures of my father as a boy – until he died and his wife gave me a photo album. I saw a photo of his parents for the first time two years ago – thanks to my sister, the family genealogist who managed to get them from a distant relative.

  • Ira March 30, 2013, 6:52 pm

    Great idea, but you may want to consider a twist I used with my three kids when they were young. Because I tended to come home after they were asleep, each night I would write something to each of them in a notebook and leave it by their bed. The next day they would write something back to me, sometimes a direct response sometimes not. It became an interactive journal that my kids still have (they’re are in their 30’s.)and cherish.

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