Journals can be great for recording one’s thoughts,
whether you share those thoughts or not is up to you.
When I was a boy, my mother gave me a notebook and told me to write in it. She said that I could write whatever was on my mind, that I could tell her anything I wanted in it.
She also explained when I had finished writing to her I should leave it on her nightstand next to her bed and she would read it and respond. In this way we would be able to write letters back and forth to each other.
It worked well. As a youth, I had a very difficult time talking about sensitive topics. Whether that be bullies at school, fears or aspirations, the notebook gave me a way to reach out for advice and support.
She would always tell me that no matter how bad a day was, how sad or mad I felt, I could always come home and write about it. I could tell her about it in the notebook, and if I wanted her to read it, all I had to do was leave it on the nightstand. And if I didn’t want anyone to know, then I was allowed to just hang onto it myself.
It was cathartic for me, this process...
She also encouraged me to write about happy times, about positive days or my excitement over upcoming birthday parties and the like. For whatever reason though, I felt those notebook entries were more forced. I felt as though I was just jotting down the obvious: anticipation for new toys, anticipation for cake and anticipation for sleepovers with friends. It was the negative emotions that gave me the most relief to jot down.
Maybe that’s because I knew she would respond with something to make me feel better? That must have been it. Mom’s responses always had a twist of optimism tossed in after her condolences. She was also very good at asking a question or two to keep the discussion rolling, and often but not always, there was a bible verse at the end. Classic mom maneuver.
Now, when I sit down to write this column, there are many days I have not the slightest notion what I’m writing about or where it’ll take me. Lots of times I jump to what’s on my mind, outdoors related or not — if something is bothering me, I have to get that out. Some of that is earned by a force of habit by forcing myself to write an article each week, but some of it comes back to a much earlier lesson, from a parent who listened.
Obviously, I love my mom, but beyond that, this idea of hers was just brilliant. This method of communication, through a notebook-letter-journal, was such a unique and thoughtful idea, it still inspires me today.
As a parent with a child who has trouble opening up, I guess you have a few options available. You can either bang your head against the wall trying to eke out some communication the way you know how, or you can try to look at it from their point of view, and find a new and creative way to engage them.
My suspicion is that your approach to something like this is heavily influenced by your generation. The old school doctrine here would say, "Force it, make the kid do such-and-such because that’s how you were raised.” I think the newest generation of child-rearers, Millennials, would say, “Let her / him find their own path. Ask what they want.”
I think the best course of action is a healthy mix of the two.
Communication is an essential, yet often overlooked ingredient to healthy relationships, whether that be between people or a person and their environment. It’s critical for us to understand one another because if we don’t, we’ll never agree, and if we never agree, it’s awfully hard to work towards a common goal. Isn’t that worth getting creative over?
See you out there,
A woodsman in training.
A woodsman in training.