Baby, You've Got Mail

Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Barack Obama's election got me thinking about how we will all likely try, one day, to explain to our kids what a big deal this all is. My kids don't understand potty-training yet, let alone presidential politics. Will I be able to remember, by the time they are learning about the electoral college and race in America, exactly how I felt last Tuesday? The answer is patently obvious: No way man.

Watching my 10 month old these days, I am often stunned by the fact that, as he sits up for the first time and starts to crawl, I have very few memories of my older son--who is almost 3--doing the exact same things. I remember them happening, of course--it's not like I am surprised that my eldest now can walk so I obviously know that he took his first steps. But my memories are of the fuzzy, global variety. Like the way I remember that I went to elementary school. The nuance, the singularity that made these MY memories--that's what's missing. Moments I was sure were etched into my consciousness forever are--well--nowhere to be found.

I was not happy about any of this. Forget Obama, I want to remember the way my son says "good morning beautiful day!" every morning. And I want him to remember it too. Which is why I decided to turn to the place I often rely on for help in a crisis: Google. A few months ago I set up gmail accounts for my kids. Whenever I have that itch in my brain that says "will I remember this one day?" I write my kids a quick note. The results are pretty scattered--and equally amusing. I just looked at my eldest's account and there are messages about everything from how he calls going to school his "job", to how he likes to watch horrible tv (why oh why oh WHY did any sane person create the whiny horror that is Caillou??), to how I have never been so proud in my life as when he, unprompted and for no apparent reason, was sweet and kind to an old, lonely stranger at a party.

Email is far less daunting than the beautiful raw silk baby book you have yet to fill a page of. (At least mine is raw silk. And man is it gorgeous. Even with the 3 inches of dust it has collected thus far. Maybe one day I will donate it to a museum.) Just as quickly as your child can say or do something hilarious, you can forever enshrine it in an inbox! Nothing about recording your memory has to be "perfect" (and I know I don't have to introduce you to the Devi-perfectionist-complex do I?) and you don't have to do a dog and pony show with it--email is almost quaint in its simplicity and privacy. Moreover, something about this method makes it easier to capture all of the unique, silly, anachronistic, anomalously amazing things about our kids. When you don't have a set number of pages to fill, or somebody dictating to you that you should "place first birthday party here," the milestones arrive organically, and can include moments such as the first time your son was in a photobooth (which is a big rite of passage in my family).

Of course, in encapsulating memories for your kids, you end up encapsulating yourself too--providing glimpses of your thoughts and heart at certain moments. (I think with wonder about how cool it would be if I could have snippets of my parents' prose from when they were 31, 36, 42. ) Whether you are writing on election day or on Parent Teacher Conference day or on a random Tuesday--by writing you are giving yourself. My pro/con list to my son about whether I want him to grow up is--let's face it--a telling artifact about his mother. Writing this stuff in real time enables you to capture the wisdom, clarity of though, and foolishness that accompany everything we as mothers do everyday. And, rest assured: If, for some reason, you go back and read something too embarrassing one day--well that is what the "delete" function is for!

The last week has reaffirmed to me how rich our lives are. Not only for the big things, but for all the little ones too. Writing these seemingly silly messages to my kids gives me--and one day my kids--a way to remember some of these little things that make our lives ours.


11 comments:
Sidy said...

i love this idea! i actually have kept a scrapbook for my kids, but i think the idea of email messages for them is a great accompanyment. (although, by the time our kids are old enough for email, i wonder if it will be archaic, like an 8 track or something!)

Meena said...

Haha Caillou is a horrible show!

Sonal said...

Wow I love this idea too. You totally know how to inspire me to do little simple things with my kids that are high on the quality time quotient. I actually made a secret book with my daughter over the weekend!

rupal said...

Great idea, Deepa! You hit the nail on the head about the constraints of fancy scrapbooks etc. Just remember to periodically download/archive your precious email (not that I dont have full faith in google...). Your kids are very lucky :)

Tani said...

This is a perfect idea and it proves that this is the mommy blog for me. Martha Stewart I am not. You know what, forget that: Rachel Ray I am not even! More reasons to do this: journals are so 2007 (haha), you will never lose what you write, you won't have piles of crap you hope to one day compile all over your house. Plus it's just cool. Thanks Devis!

Mira said...

thank you for this post, it articulates so much of what i cannot in so many different contexts. how, although i want to go through all the "firsts" and rites of passage with my two kids, i don't want to feel like i am being spoon-fed or that i am spoon-feeding memories. how the most poignant memories are often the equivalent of sweet nothings on saturday mornings. thank you thank you!

Aziza said...

this is one of the BEST ideas i've ever heard in terms of connecting in a real, organic way with our kids. I just set up email accounts for both of mine. so often i am at work when i think about something funny one of my children did. or when i have one of those moments when i feel so proud or happy or excited to be their mom. i never thought about
"capturing" those moments but reading this post made me wonder why not and can't wait to do it. (and oh my goodness i cannot stand caillou).

deep said...

The Gmail idea is so 1999. Every time they do anything cute, we should make a hologram.

sayma said...

awesome idea. But I think we need a whole post on this "Devi perfectionist syndrome". If you need a guest blogger on the origins of the phenom let mr know...I will ask my mother!!!!!

Jaya said...

I will add my yea-hoo to the pile. What I like the best is the intimacy of it. This is just between you and your child. There is no "dog and pony show" as you put it. It's also free, which means we can escape, for once, from the baby-industrial-complex. Good stuff all around.

simran said...

just wanted to say that I set up an email account for my son after I read this yesterday and today I dashed off a couple messages to him, just as we were going through the regular things of our day. I included photos too...putting my iphone to use! This was a great idea! So simple and it feels like I am doing something great for my baby.

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