My seven-year-old son, Skyler, has a behavioral chart at school. The main obstacle to achieving four stickers, the highest level of success, has been narrowed down to mostly one thing, completing his journal. He either doesn’t write in the journal or doesn’t read the journal out loud to the class when requested. I’ve felt bewildered by this. I had always kept a journal as a child because I wanted to. My thoughts were written for my eyes only and I wrote what I felt I needed to write.
I haven’t kept a journal for a long time, and thought about doing so once again for my son, but also for myself. It’s been a while since I’ve written just for me; thoughts that were not going to be published, myself the only audience, no edits, no proofing, and usually no re-reading. I simply wrote to write them, to get them out of my head. I kept journal after journal and later they ended up in a box or a drawer. Unfortunately, most of the journals from my adolescent years have vanished. Looking through some journals, I realized I haven’t written one since 2006, a journal I kept during the first years of my son’s life in which every entry began with, “Dearest Holden.” Someday he may want to read it. I’m sure it’s gushing with sentiment that would probably make him squirm today. But maybe someday.
Generally speaking, journals are private. Where would crime drama be without the mysterious diary? It’s all in the diary. There you’ll find the clues. And hands off, NSA. They can’t touch this one. In this age of spontaneous, digitized reactions, private thoughts maybe are not recorded as they once were. Flipping through a few of my journals, I encountered pictures and receipts, like spontaneous, magical gifts of my past.
My son’s in-class, daily journal is seemingly more of an assignment, usually with questions about his weekend, maybe a field trip. Usually, he doesn’t share the topics or what he’s written, except in the case of this one:
Homework is frustrating and tiring, but helps me learn.
Pretty good! I would give that sentence a 4 on their 4-point scale. I’m not sharing to boast like a proud mommy, but merely to express that, perhaps, it’s not writing that is the issue. He’s anxious, he’s maybe even fearful about being incorrect. I’m not sure, really. What I don’t want to see happen is for fear to get in way of him being able to enjoy writing, and to write as a means to express himself. Because he can and because he wants to.
I’ve always have the most fun dancing when no one is watching. As a trained dancer, I could be consumed with the technique of a step. But as a child, I spent a lot of time dancing alone, with joyous abandon, and then my mother would put me on the spot in front of tens of people. I would freeze, sometimes cry. I don’t know why I froze, I knew I could dance. I had tons of lessons; I loved to do it, yet I couldn’t when asked. I stumbled. I couldn’t deliver what she wanted.
Writing can be much like that with the pressure to perform on cue. As I ponder my son’s anxiety, I’m reminded of my own. So now I’m giving myself permission. I’m going to write in my journal like no one is reading. Because I can and because I need to.
Do you have a journal? What do you like to write about? Or, hey, you don’t have to tell me. You can keep it all to yourself.