I have very few items from my childhood and have learned not to be too sentimental. The exceptions are family photos and random notes from my parents.
These notes weren’t for me per se. After my parents died, I found my dad’s 1-page inventory of the few things we owned when immigrating to the US. From another notebook, I saw my mom comparing the costs of hotels for a vacation she never took.
Each forgotten paper scrap gives me glimpses of my parents’ life, pieces of a conversation that I wish we could have today.
I wish I could ask about how they coped or struggled with parenting in a new country with no help. Were they happy or sad? Did they pray? Who were their first friends? What would they do differently in hindsight?
Now my oldest child is 6, and she constantly requests stories from my childhood.
What were my parents like, the grandparents that she would never meet?
A journal of tangible memories
Knowing that inevitably all memories will become hazy, my husband and I started a journal of letters to our daughter.
We wanted to create something that she could have, hold, and remember when we are no longer here someday.
To tell her about things that made us laugh and cry, to tell her what we learned with her and little brother.
And to write it by hand, because there’s something comforting about seeing handwriting from someone you know.
Memory journal – it doesn’t have to be perfect
The original plan was to write a message in the journal every year on her birthday.
In reality, except for her 1st and 6th birthdays, we have not followed any schedule!
And we have yet to start a memory journal for our son…I know, sorry dear second child. There’s still time as this is a gradual, long-term project.
Initially, we imagined sending our children off to college with their memory journals. For our daughter’s 6th birthday, we changed our mind and gave it to her.
Maybe she’ll want to reply back in the memory journal, maybe not.
Most of our letters are in English because that’s our family language, the best way we can express ourselves.
However, I did write one entry in Chinese, which I hope our children will still be able to read decades down the road.
Writing in Chinese is also risky, because I am not fluent. I’m prone to grammatical errors and forgetting important strokes.
But I want my children to see and remember the humble mistakes.
I want them to know that we have learned hard things together and persevered with faith in our almighty God.
Do you keep a memory journal?
Do you save notes from your family and friends?
Is this a tradition that you would start with your children?
I’d love to hear your story. If you feel comfortable sharing, please leave a comment below!
More insights from our Family Language Journey
- A Letter to My Parents: Why I’m Teaching Your Grandchildren Chinese
- Raising Multilingual Children as a Non-Fluent Parent: 7 Lessons Learned
- Auntie’s Advice on Accents: Be Patient, and Take the Time to Listen
- Redefining Mother’s Day with My Parents’ Language
- Faith, Hope, and Love in a Foreign Heritage Language
- Overcoming Asian Guilt on Lunar New Year
- Happy 6th Birthday, Dear Daughter | Reflections of Our Multilingual Journey
Other gift ideas for kids
- Best Montessori Inspired Educational Toys and Homeschool Materials on Etsy
- 10 Best Open-Ended Toys That Promote Creativity and Learning
- Handmade Cards for Reading and Writing Practice (English, Chinese, and Korean)
- 5 Reasons Books are the Best Gifts for Multilingual Kids
- Ultimate Chinese Gift Guide for Kids: Cultural, Educational, & Fun Toys
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