I started this site/journal over nine years ago so that I could keep track of what it was like to be a dad. It was pretty self-serving, but I think the site became a bit more than that. It was a way for our parents and grandparents to keep track of what was going on with us. Also it transformed from being my diary into being the collective work of a lot of people--largely Evelyn, but also George, Janet, and even our neighbor Em. We made some color-coding innovations and eventually realized it made sense to note the day of the week. I tried audio clips, video clips (which it turned out I was too lazy to keep up with), and added lots and lots of photos.
My style of writing could be pretty boring: a point-by-point recitation of what happened in a given day. Evelyn tended towards a rundown of important highlights. I often felt like I couldn't remember the really good stuff that happened in a day, or that I left out something that I would miss later. At the beginning we were painfully accurate and wrote about being kept up at night by crying babies; later, we decided it was often better to write the "good parts" version of our day. At a certain point--when Cara began reading over our shoulders, and when we decided this was a journal for discussing littler kids--we shifted our focus almost entirely to Owen.
We've sometimes had call over the years to go back to previous pages and try to find out what Cara did when she was growing up. I've found it can be pretty hard to search through this thing. It's become quite monstrous--acres and acres of words and days. You can get lost in it. What I think sometimes is the most valuable and interesting are the things that we didn't think were very interesting at the time, and might not even have always bothered to write down: our routine, the things we were doing every day, the little things Cara or Owen did that slowly went away and that we barely remember now.
I've found it's most easy to get lost paging through all the photos. If you click fast enough, you can watch as Cara quickly loses her baby fat and sprouts up--and up, and up--and becomes a little woman. How did that happen? Even though we wrote it all out, it's hard to imagine.
I didn't think I would be able to handle having a second child--I remembered how hard it was having that first little infant!--but I went along with it because Evelyn wanted that so very much. We had a very hard time of it, getting that second one. But when Owen finally came along--oh golly--I just can't imagine the world without him. You never know how hard you can love someone until it happens.
I had a co-worker when I was just starting out at Peoples Education, Carol, who was a single parent with a son, and she used to tell me that you don't teach your kids--your kids teach you. Every year since then, that has become more and more true to me. We never know what we're doing with our kids--none of us have any idea! Doing it, and responding and reacting to them, makes us figure out what we're doing. Being a parent teaches you about being a person, more than anything I think I've done. Which is not to say that I claim I know all about it now! Far from it.
We most certainly did not raise our children in a vacuum either. We never would have made it through this as well or as far as we have without Evelyn's parents and mine helping us and guiding us every step of the way. We were still being parented while we were in the process of parenting. Our own relationships with our parents have grown and changed because of this. For one thing, you get a much different perspective on what it was like being in charge of yourself when you were a baby, once you've started doing it for someone else. And of course all the babysitting and sleepovers we've gotten haven't hurt.
I had the idea that, once Owen started going to school, we would stop writing this journal. The kids would both be in the public education curriculum, being influenced by other people throughout the day, and just starting on the road to being independent people. Also by that time I figured it would no longer be a "baby" journal, which was what I first called this thing--a name that no longer seems to make any sense to me. Neither of them are babies anymore. Owen hasn't yet started going to school, but he IS nearly five. He says the craziest things. I'm still not entirely sure he knows his alphabet. When he writes his name, it is still OMNE or ONME most of the time, because he likes to write his W upside-down. He is still cute as all get-out, and I'm still hoping desperately that he stays that way for a few more years.
Cara is a long way from being a baby. At nine, she sometimes seems to have the poise and maturity of someone five or ten years older than that. She reads voraciously just like her parents--especially her mother--and she is beginning to develop some very grown-up emotional anxieties which, as parents trying to deal with them, will bring Evelyn and me into a whole new chapter of our own adventure.
Anyway, it doesn't look like we'll make it all the way until next fall, when Owen really will start kindergarten. We've already been so busy with the rest of our lives--Evelyn is heading towards the end of her graduate classes, I'm in the middle of taking computer programming courses in the hope of trying to adjust my career path, Cara is in fourth grade and taking on more and more dance classes in her spare time, Owen is convinced that any day now he's going to graduate from daycare, and we have household issues and all kinds of real-life things to worry about. The journal has, quite naturally and without our meaning it, fallen to the wayside. I think this is our way of telling ourselves it's time to stop.
(Facebook also has had its share in killing the journal. Once I started posting kid photos there, and we started posting cute kiddie quotes, it became redundant and troublesome to have to do it all over again on the journal. Sometimes things got into FB that didn't get into the journal; but hopefully most of the time it was vice versa.)
I hope that we really can look back on this whole thing and get something out of it. I hope we've gotten something out of it in the process of writing it. I hope some day Cara and/or Owen, or maybe even (knock on wood) their kids can some day read this and find something worth reading. (Being a grandparent is something I look forward to very much--maybe I'll start a new journal for that!) And I hope everyone who's been tuning in from week to week has enjoyed riding along with us.
-- September 2014
PS - this still might not be the End end! We may pop back on for less periodic updates. We'll let you know!
Evelyn's Epilogue Notes
I do want to mention a few things. One is that I definitely remember making Steve start this journal because I wanted to be able to let everyone in the family who wanted to know all about what Cara was doing.It's turned out to be a really rewarding exercise in a lot of ways; I'm so glad we did it. It's helping us to remember what the last nine and a half years have been like, which is mind-boggling. Parenting has been an incredible challenge and an incredible joy, and I know we've both learned an amazing amount and changed in really positive ways. Actually, I don't remember what else I had wanted to add. I'm actually going to start doing some extra journaling now.