Every time I ask, they always say, “nothing good happened today.” But, I sit with my pen in hand, notebook open, and I wait. When they realize there’s no getting out of this exercise, they stare at me for awhile, their mind totally blank, and then begin with something like, “I played basketball at recess.” Always in monotone.
I write that down, and I say, “OK, what’s the second thing.” They give me that look: “you’ve got to be kidding.” At this point, they get a little irritated; sometimes angry. I ignore that, taking it for a bluff, and I wait.
And then, their eyes light up, and they get that far-off look and say, “Oh yeah…I ran through the hall today with Max, we were having a race, and we didn’t get caught. Well, Mrs. R saw us, but she just smiled at us and we didn’t get into trouble.” Or, “I’m almost finished with my art project.” Sometimes this is how I learn they wrote a new song during music class; or I discover that their favorite meal is the tomato soup the cook serves on the third Wednesday of every month.
Regardless, I now know something I didn’t know before about each one of them. I didn’t know before that art class is a relief to him. I knew orchestra was bad; but I didn’t know it was that horrible. And, it appears that Mrs. R has a soft spot for the boys.
Meanwhile the boys discover that Monday at school wasn’t such a bad day after all. Gratitude, all the experts keep saying, is the key to happiness, wealth and joy. I’d like my boys to grow into their adult world with those keepsakes in their back pocket. To have an inkling of how to turn a dreary day into a great one; just by remembering what was good.
Our family gratitude journal is a spiral Superman lined blank book (except for the pages where Spider Man leaps onto the lines) that I originally purchased in November of 2003. At the time, I was busy with a newborn baby and a fussy toddler. I wanted each boy to understand that while I was busy, I cared about what was going on in their lives. The journal was my way of getting them to open up, and worked as a safety valve for me; to prevent me from getting too focused on the baby, at the exclusion of the little things going on in their worlds.
The entries stop around February 2004, and then start up again in June 2004. There are many pages where the handwriting is barely legible, as I was writing with one hand, and nursing the baby with the other arm. The entries are sporadic until December 2004. There are no entries at all in 2005. Only two in 2006, and this one today in 2009. I store the journal in the kitchen tucked on the shelves with the cookbooks.
I hope I can keep the journal going this time, because looking back through the pages is insightful, funny, confusing and always surprising.
December 17, 2007: Playing Heads Up 7up during indoor recess.
March 13, 2006: Tasted fresh maple syrup for the first time.
February 7, 2007: Favorite time of the day was getting my brother out of his crib this morning. Also happy that there were no dogs out in the yard when I walked home. (I had forgotten about his fleeting fear of dogs. )
January 18, 2006: My Life.
I always try to include entries from Mom and Dad, so that when they’re all grown up and laughing, they’ll laugh even harder when they read that Mom’s favorite thing on November 24, 2003, was that “it’s finally the end of the day.”
June 22, 2004: Running through the dust created when Dad was blowing the driveway with the power leaf blower. (I think that was my parent’s wedding anniversary, but not sure.)
This book is a treasure chest.