As a kid, I would flip through my baby book, hoping my mom had filled in some of the blanks while I was sleeping or at school. But every time I took the book off its shelf, I saw the same barren pages between the faded pale yellow covers. Listed were the date and time of my birth, my birth weight, a lock of hair from my first haircut ... and that was all. I promised myself that if I ever became a parent, I wouldn’t start a baby book if I couldn’t commit to the project. As an adult, I know that I’m amazing at starting projects. But finishing them? Not so much.
This is why I’ve never owned a baby book.
It turns out, I’m not alone. In the age of the smartphone, many parents are finding the traditional baby book just doesn’t make sense. That doesn’t mean those of us who are sans baby book aren’t capturing the important moments. There are plenty of ways to hold onto the milestones, the mispronunciations that are too cute to correct, and everything in between – while letting go of the pressure to fill in the blanks.
1 | Write them down
Instead of baby books, I have a blank, lined journal for each of my two daughters. When I feel inclined to record a precious moment I simply open the book and write it down. There is no schedule, so I never feel like I’m “behind.”
Each entry is dated. Some are briefer than others. Some note milestones like the first step or the first three-word sentence. Others capture funny conversations or serve as a brain-dump of every word they pronounce incorrectly. Sometimes I’m just saying “I love you.” I plan to give each girl her book when she’s an adult … but not before photocopying one for myself.
2 | Type them up and send them off
You’re never too young for an email address. At least that’s what Lakeville, MN dad Joe Meyers thinks. When his son Aden was still in the womb, Meyers set up an email account for him. Since then Meyers and his wife have been sending three-year-old Aden all kinds of emails, ranging from medical records and party invitations to notes regarding milestones including his first dessert (mocha ice cream). This will be the fourth consecutive year the Meyers’ are requesting family and friends send emails in lieu of birthday cards.
3 | Box them up
Boxing memories means no pages to put in order or blanks to complete, and you can include anything you want. Best of all, a memory box serves as an actual treasure chest. At her daughter’s birthday parties, Lakeland, Florida mom Tangela Walker-Craft has each guest write a message on a small piece of paper and then collects them in a jewelry box. “The message can be a favorite Bible scripture, a serious personal message, or a favorite motto or quote.” Walker-Craft says she and her daughter enjoy reflecting on the memories and the messages, particularly the ones from Walker-Crafts late grandmother.
Stacy Haynes is a Turnersville, NJ mom whose kids, ages 10 and 11, each have a simple plastic storage bin for memorabilia. Organizing them is easy; Haynes simply drops the most recent items on top. “We have everything from soccer shirts, to baby teeth and school report cards all in two bins. So on moving day, after college and they move into their own place, their memories are already packed away.” The simple box is a family tradition; Haynes says her mom gave her the memory box from her childhood once she was married with children.
4 | Film them
There is nothing quite like a video to preserve a moment. At the end of each year, Bailey Gaddis, the Ojai, California mother and author of “Feng Shui Mommy,” creates a “Year in Review” video montage of all the short takes she’s recorded of her four-year-old son throughout the year. Not only does the video showcase milestones and random sweet and funny moments, Bailey loves that they double as holiday gifts for the grandparents. As an added bonus, videos won’t create clutter.
5 | Collect them (Dr. Seuss style)
My husband bought each of our kids a copy of Dr. Seuss’s “Oh the Places You’ll Go.” Once a year he makes sure it’s signed by the important people in their lives, including ourselves, extended family, close friends, regular babysitters, and teachers. The inscriptions are reminiscent of the sentiments you’d see in a yearbook missive. My husband plans to give the girls their books when they graduate high school. Meanwhile, the books have been sitting on my desk for four weeks, and my husband has been gently nudging me to write my annual messages. I can only be responsible for one thing, it seems. (see #1).
There were many things I did not know before I became a parent. One thing I did know was that I never wanted an abandoned baby book in my home. One thing I’ve learned is that there’s no one right way when it comes to parenting or capturing memories.
Each new experience and tradition we shared with one another went off without a hitch. In fact, we soon learned our differences as a Jewish man and a Irish Catholic woman actually helped to bring us closer.