Beyond baby books
Baby books have long been a mother's tie to the memories of her child's early years. First-time mothers write in them religiously, even filling in parts long before the child has arrived. Most second (and third, and fourth and so on) time mothers just nod knowingly when the subject of these memory-keepers come up, for they too have that thoroughly completed book for their first child. A second, less complete book may be present for the next child... but for subsequent children, they're lucky if the birth weight made it into the book.
We want to preserve the memories, but sometimes baby books just don't fit the bill. Thankfully, there are other creative venues for capturing the images of childhood that might better meet our own personal styles.
Put it in a box
Mother of three Ellen Dillard kept a baby book for each of her children, but it didn't take long before she realized that everything she wanted to save wasn't going to fit into the books. "The baby books were fine for recording milestones, saving pictures and other small pieces of memorabilia, but I wanted to keep bigger things, such as favorite outfits and toys. I decided to keep a box for each child's special items." Each of Dillard's children now have a keepsake box that holds the treasures of their childhood, which Dillard plans to give them when they get older.
This idea has its counterpart in the Baby's Time Capsule, a large can decorated with bright baby graphics. It comes with several memory-saving materials including a small version of a baby book in which the highlights of the birth year can be recorded. The can may be used to house memorabilia for a number of years depending on the size of the items. This time capsule can be found at most baby stores and makes a unique shower gift.
Memories in pictures
Many parents choose to put memories away with photographs, and what parent doesn't have a plethora of their children's pictures around? While the significance of the photos can be recorded simply by labeling the back of each picture before storing them in an album, there are more creative ways to go about it.
Jennifer Jones took the idea of the photo album a step further. "I have always taken many pictures of my kids. Before scrapbooking became popular, I kept them in a regular photo album and wrote little captions on them. Now each child has their own book. In them I keep cards, postcards and letters they receive, as well as newspaper clippings, school announcements and report cards from the end of every year along with photos and mementos from events they attend."
Scrapbooking is a popular art today and it is also a clever way to incorporate pictures and words as well as other bits of memorabilia into a book, thus creating a special family keepsake. The tools and materials for scrapbooking can be purchased in kits or through companies that specialize in scrapbooking as well as from local arts and crafts stores.
The beauty of the scrapbook is that you are not relegated to filling in only the information that a baby book creator feels is important about your child. Marnie Holmes, the mother of a newborn daughter, shares her feelings, "Journals with a limited amount of space for writing have always frustrated me, and so I have always used blank books for recording my thoughts. When it came time to begin a 'family diary' I automatically went for a blank book for that too. It allowed more space for creativity."
In her family book, Holmes enjoys the freedom to keep such things as the hospital ID bracelets from when her daughter was born, flowers picked from her first walk as well as more traditional items such as a lock of hair and a handprint. Along with the mementos, Holmes records her corresponding thoughts. "Sometimes I write in headline form, other times more like an essay or poem. As the baby gets older, I'll include things that she says as well."
Besides being a means of saving memories, scrapbooks are a way to preserve a part of you -- your personality and feelings and heart -- for future generations. Shel Franco explains it this way, " I wanted my boys to have a non-generic account of what their early years were like. I wanted the pages to be filled with my artwork, my words, my creativity. I wanted them to be able to learn about themselves and me in the pages." Mom and scrapbooker Margie Senechal sums it up well, "Scrapbooks are really a labor of love."
A family affair
A benefit of all of these baby book alternatives is that as your children grow, they can join in the activity and, according to Jones, make it a memorable activity itself. Chomi, a mother of three daughters, has scrapbooked with her girls for years and says, "I think the scrapbooks are great for them. At low points, they act as reinforcements of all that is good about my girls and they help them to remember the good times, to keep their identity and perspective when peers are sometimes hard on them."
Holding on to memories of our children as we watch them grow is an important part of being a parent. Being able to share these memories with our youngsters is something both they and we will enjoy for years to come as we flip through the pages created especially for them. Tap your creativity and try one of these baby book alternatives to keep your memories alive in a new and personal way.