How great would it be to look back at all of your own travel experiences through the eyes of your seven-year-old or twelve-year-old self? What would have that younger version of you written about a camel ride to see the Great Pyramids, or a hiking adventure where you discovered a small waterfall?
Part of the beauty of being a parent is re-learning how to see the world with fresh eyes, and in my opinion it is one of the most rewarding aspects of creating these little people. As parents we want to let our children explore and give them gentle guidance to learn about themselves and how they interact with others and everything around them.
Although my babe at one year is much too young to communicate her thoughts about the world in words, let alone write it down, I set up her own email account and send her emails from time to time to tell her what we are doing as a family, what our life is like traveling with her (and how life has changed traveling with her!), and a few photos that capture the moment. I hope that when she is older and when she is given her account full of emails that she enjoys traveling back in time as much as she has enjoyed the ride.
When our children are old enough to talk, we plan on talking to them at the end of each day about their favorite parts of the day, and perhaps their least favorite parts of the day and how they feel about it all. I want to document for them exactly in their own words in a travel journal how they see the world and themselves in it, even if it’s just a few words at two or a few simple thoughts at three.
By age seven, I hope that my children will be able to at least simply express their thoughts in writing. I’d like to encourage them, particularly when we travel and visit a new place, to write down their reactions and impressions of the new place they’ve visited and get them in the habit of reflecting introspectively on the world around them. Drawing pictures can work, too!
And how lovely will it be, in place of travel souvenirs and stuff, to be given yourself in a neat little book that shows, exactly in your own words, how you have grown as a person and how your world view has developed? And how lovely it will be as parents, to watch that process unfold?
Especially now as we enter the holiday season that can often be burdened with material things, take a moment to think about the best gifts you can give your children that keeps on giving. On my own list are love, time, and encouragement. For those with kids old enough to start expressing (even by picture or with your own help to write it down) their thoughts on their life and activities, consider the gift of journaling and reflection for your kids this holiday season.
Happy Birthday today, my little bug! My wishes and aspirations for you as you grow each year: may you live each day with joy, and may you always act with compassion.