Jar of Awesome: An easy way to capture your family’s best memories

October 2019 Posted in Columnists & Opinion, Other, People

“Enjoy this time because it’ll be over before you know it,” is possibly the single most cruel sentence one can utter to a new parent, yet the compulsion to say it is hard to resist.

I’ve said it – many times – and even as it leaves my mouth I wish I could take it back. Because, what could be more unkind than telling someone who is struggling to make it on very little sleep while doing the hardest job with the highest stakes, “I hope you are really taking all that in because those sweet little snuggles you get between bouts crying that never seems to end and diapers that always need to be changed – those snuggles will soon be long gone, replaced by a sulky teenager who wants nothing to do with you – in what feels like five minutes?”

We all know it’s true. We all feel the passage of time speeding up as we age. And we’re all looking for ways to slow it down. It can feel just a little bit overwhelming.

There’s a reason why most of us have hundreds of photos on our phones that never see the light of day. We obsessively record every moment so that they can live on into the future. We have visions of watching videos of our then-grown babies learning to walk, talk and take their first bath – at least I do and I don’t think I’m alone.

But now? I’m too tired to catalogue, journal and stash away those photos right now. I need a full-time historian!

That’s when I stumbled on a way of keeping up to date for the year without having to do it all by myself – we call it the Jar of Awesomeness and it’s one of my new favorite things.

It’s just a jar kept in a conspicuous place with a stack of notecards or small pieces of paper and a pen nearby. I have discovered if you do not provide paper the kids will use whatever they can find, usually harvested from the nearby recycling bin – useful, but not attractive and sometimes hard to read.

Now comes my favorite part: I do nothing. The kids take over, cataloguing their own moments throughout the year and stashing them in the jar. Sometimes it’s big things – concerts (we keep the ticket stubs), races won, trips taken – and sometimes it’s small things – teeth lost, games played, hikes taken. But the beauty is that it’s up to each one to decide what goes in the jar – no judgment.

At the end of the year the jar gets emptied with family members take turns reading the notes. It’s always a surprise because it’s amazing how much gets forgotten, especially the little moments that fly past the parenting radar but mean so much to a kid.

My friend Lisa, who originally introduced me to the idea, makes the opening of the jar a part of her family’s New Year’s Eve celebration, then she scrapbooks the moments. I – decidedly not a “scrapbooker” – have taken a different approach: the Wall of Awesome.

It’s a year-long journey, complete with photo illustrations – yes, I took the time to print out pictures and get them off my phone! It lives next to my desk as a daily reminder that it’s all going to be OK. Because even though time feels like it’s going at warp speed – weren’t my kids babies yesterday?! It’s also made up of a million small moments – written in those same kids’ shaky, elementary school handwriting. And even more than that, it’s proof that, although there are times when I feel like I’m doing everything wrong, there are other times when I’m doing it all right. It’s right there in that little Jar of Awesome.

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