Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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Diaries of old diaries showed yellowed pages blackened with bold handwriting, embellished with water colors, and narrated extraordinary world travels on galleons or through misty mountains. The diary I started when I was 8 years old simply states the obvious: “Today, Friday June 29, 1979 I went to school, did subtractions, and I wrote on a notebook not like this one.” No dramatic shipwrecks, no wild horse rides across the steppe. Just the diary of a little girl growing up on an island.
The little girl grew and I still write in my diary (well, its 8th iteration) at bedtime, though not as often as I should. Now it’s my turn to have two little girls and I’ve been wondering – are journals a thing of the past for kids? An antiquated means of blaming the teacher or drawing hearts around your sweetheart’s name? I hope not. Actually, I think all children should be encouraged to write diaries – for their own sanity and for sheer creative fun.
The Day My 9-Year Old Daughter Discovered My 8-Year Old Self
Two weeks ago I showed my first diary to my 9-year old. She was flabbergasted. Here I was, 8-year old me, writing words in my childish way. For a fleeting moment I was not a mom sitting next to her on the staircase but a young child on paper, writing with candor on the little things of life that mattered only to her. Who cares that I came back from school at 11 am to have lunch before returning to school? It’s an insignificant detail and yet school was the center of my world. The first 8 pages of my diary are filled with details on my parrots, my school friends and my bedtime books. Only on page 5 do I squeeze in the fact that I’m a girl (hey, that’s a fact) and on page 9 – in the sidebar hastily added – I list my two parents and two brothers (yes, I have a family). Then I come back to describing my lunch and talking about my hamsters.
Something clicked in my 9-year old the day she read that. She asked me for a nice notebook and wrote the first pages. Now she writes every other day. Is it because she realized diaries didn’t have to be made of grandiose feats and pompous sentences? Did she find me more accessible as an 8-year old? Did she feel like she too could share things that mattered to her?
Whatever it is, the diary’s now part of her bedtime ritual. Why do you like to write in your diary? I asked her a few days later. Because it’s private, she answered, because it’s mine.
That leads me to why a diary’s an important part of a child’s development.
When A Child Creates An Identity
Diaries help children find their true identity. Since the pages of a diary are not meant to be shared with the world at large, they’re a special place where secrets can be whispered. Where imaginary friends can come to life. Where sibling rivalry can be settled and the wonders of a special day expressed. Where a child can explore the depths of his or her soul and let loose on paper. Or grow up without anybody noticing the subtle changes.
It’s a treasure box of thoughts and nobody can make fun of a kid’s secrets in a diary. They’re protected by a sacred concept, that of privacy. And I beg parents and close relatives to respect it.
Why is it important? There’s things you want others to know – blogs, online chats, Facebook status – and things you don’t. Things you don’t are a protected kingdom and nobody can be allowed to mess with that.
Diaries Are Fun
Diaries should be fun. Let me come back to the example of my 8-year old diary. The first 5 pages are handwritten text with red hearts drawn with a marker at the top of the page. On page 2 a sticker makes its way in the margin. Another one on page 4 (more hearts). Page 6 is wild – I use different color markers to write, write three short poems, and draw a flower garland. Page 10 and 11 are two drawings I made for my mom. All hell breaks loose on page 12 when I staple a leaf from a hibiscus bush that grew in our garden. A living thing in my diary!
What I’m saying is, the diary was all about experimenting for me. It was a scrap book and a diary. It was where I glued newspaper clippings that I liked, where I wrote recipes if I didn’t know where to write them, where I wrote the names of books I read, where I discussed friends, grand-parents, my brothers and first loves. I even have the ticket of my first rock concert – Paul Young, March 2, 1986 at Thammasart University in Bangkok. No kidding, it was fun!
And that’s how I wish all diaries were.
Bursting with creativity!
Full of life!
If you believe in diaries like Peter Pan believes in fairies, take your children to a nice stationary store this weekend and purchase their first diary. Who knows, it might be the start of a great writing career – or just a fun way to create memories and write secrets.