Monday, April 18, 2005

Baby's First Year Calendar

Your baby's first twelve months of life will be full of milestones, developments, and firsts. You'll want to treasure every single moment, and sooner or later, your child will become interested in his or her early history. Our memories, however, are often faulty. In fact, they are more faulty than we realize. We think that the exact date of the child's first steps or the very first food the child ate are indelibly etched in our minds, but they are not. Particularly if your baby is not destined to be the only child in your household, you will find that these memories tend to fade with time. Even now, you will find that the details of the days in the past weeks are blurring together. You know that special things have happened, but you would be hard pressed to give an exact date for most of them.

The problem is compounded when you have more than one child! The details of the infants' early development tend to blend together. Which one took those first steps at grandma's and which one walked for the first time at the mall? Who said which word first and when? Even if it doesn't seem like that will happen to you right now, the Voice of Experience (yours truly, with three children in their teens) can tell you that it can and it will. If your children are particularly alike, you may even end up with our perennial family problem: we can't tell the unlabeled baby pictures apart! The girls had identical hair color, facial shape, and many other features, right on down to identically-placed red birthmarks on their left eyelids! Thankfully, I labeled most of these photographic masterpieces shortly after they were taken, and others are date-stamped. But for the few that have few written clues, I'm reduced to trying to remember if the outfit on the child was new or a hand-me-down from an older sister. Whew! The memory just doesn't work really well with these fine details.

My husband, however (bless his heart!), foresaw this problem and solved it for us. He was very faithful about writing an entry onto a calendar each and every day of the girls' first years of life. Each daughter will have this treasure trove of memories to take with her when she is ready to leave our home, and all three girls as teens enjoy getting out their calendars and rereading them again and again.

The calendar entries are not fancy at all. Many are just simple phrases or single sentences, but together they tell a remarkable story: the story of each girl's first year. It turned out much like a journal, where he noted all of their developmental milestones and commented on day-to-day life with them. Entries tell of visits to loved ones, special events, vacations, and Christmas. They also tell of the baby's reaction to a new wall poster over the changing table and the nuances of baby-babble and the day-to-day changes in language skills as the kids grew. Some of the entries are mundane; others are hilarious in retrospect. Still others are very insightful into our daily lives back then. Three children and fifteen years later, the memories are rapidly fading, but these little calendars bring them back full force.

As an unexpected side benefit, the calendars have served to spark several lively family discussions. Communication is not something you think of teenagers doing well, but all three girls will sit together or with parents and grandparents and pour over these calendars, asking for old stories and expressing their appreciation for their many blessings. It's a great family time, and something to treasure each time it happens.

The calendars themselves were nothing particularly special. You can purchase similar products at nearly any stationary store that carries diaries and greeting cards. Each calendar has a space to fill in the month on a page, since babies start their years at different times. The dates are blank boxes with the numbers in the corners. The calendars we chose also included a set of stickers to mark events and firsts in the baby's life, like shots, first steps and words, reactions to toys, and visits with grandparents. The stickers brighten up the pages and make it easier to find dates of those important firsts when you need them later for medical background information or to help a second grader complete a timeline of her life for a school social studies project.

No matter how old your baby is right now, start a calendar! You don't have to go out and buy a fancy one. You can accomplish the same purposes with an inexpensive wall calendar from your insurance company if you want. Just take some time each and every day to add a sentence or two. In that far distant future when your son or daughter is about to leave for college or work, you can share these little memories together, and make yet another memory for the new young adult to take into the world.

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