My first child was born a week before Father’s Day 2014. The pressure was majorly on to get a card and present to memorialize the event. Off I trotted to CVS, where I stood in a gaudy aisle staring at row upon row of horrendous cards with naff phrases on them. None of them really summed John up. I could have got him a Star Wars one with some corny joke about being a better father than Darth Vader, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Then there was the cost. Turns out a rubbish card, with a cheap envelope, and a horrible impersonal message on the inside runs you $5.99. It’ll get opened, looked at, hopefully bring tears. Then it’ll get popped in a trash can, where the rats at the dump won’t care about the sentiment behind it, and will shred it to make nests for their evil rat babies.
I realized there had to be a better way. I considered making a home made card. These are cute, and certainly have more meaning behind them than anything Hallmark is offering up. Their Christmas movies are GOLD, but their cards are not, accept it. The real problem with a card, handmade or not, is that once the day or event has passed, they’re sort of pointless. You keep them on a mantle, or hanging up for a while, then they’re gone. I know some people keep cards in boxes forever. I am a hoarder. I appreciate the concept behind this. Truth of the matter is though, I doubt many people ever look in those boxes ever again, and as a family who move a lot, I have to limit my collecting to some extent. I want to remember what my kids think about Papa on Father’s Day. I want to look at the notes they wrote each other for their birthdays.
ENTER MY MASTER PLAN. The humble sketchbook. Before we go on, I don’t claim to have invented this idea, I’m sure 1,000s of people all over the world do it, but this is how I do it, so welcome!
Each one of my boys has a sketchbook. I’ve linked ours here. Since I bought my first one for William I have had reservations about being a Hobby Lobby shopper, but the pull of all my kids having matching ones dragged me back for Teddy’s and then Arthur’s. If you want to shop elsewhere these at Joanns look good. If you’re in the UK I think the Works is the best place to look for value for money. They’ve got this one.
Here’s how it works. When one of my kids has a birthday we do not rush out to the card aisle in Target and sort through thousands of brightly colored cards saying “have a super day!” with Iron man on the front. Instead I open up that kid’s book to a double page. Then I do a big “William is Three” Or “Happy birthday Arthur” background. Then I find a time to grab everyone before the birthday, and they come and write their message to whoever birthday it is. On the birthday they have their presents, with the book open on the top for them to read and look at when we have breakfast.
We also use them for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. For Father’s Day I get all three books out and sit with the kids as they decorate a page and write a note to J. I don’t edit at all. The kids can write WHATEVER they want. If they’re too little to write I get them to tell me what they want to say, and I write it down for them. Word for word. For those even younger, who can’t talk, I write a little something about what they’re like. It’s been a few years since John has been here for Mother’s Day, but another beautiful aspect of the books is that you can do them whenever. He always remembers to do the boy’s books with them before he leaves. If you’re a military family it’s an ace work around for needing to put something together but seasonal cards not being available in stores whenever you need them
Next week William is turning six. So it’s been six years of doing this. At first it seems a bit weird. Especially the first time, when you have a huge book and just one drawing in it. However trust me on this, stick with it, because flicking back through them and seeing all the wonderful memories, and how the boys have grown creatively, but also how their relationships with each other, and the things they’ve wanted to share each year, make this invaluable. If you move a lot I also recommend moving them in your car, in case the movers lose them!
One day the kids will be grown up, and will move out, and I hope they take their books with them, with decades of notes and memories in them that they can look back at. With a week to go until Father’s Day 2020, now’s the time to start, and I hope you get years of enjoyment out of making the pages, and sharing them with each other.