Now It’s Really Personal: Saving Your Grandkids’ Stories


The late cartoonist Charles Schulz felt that all babies should be issued a banjo at birth. He thought that would make children happy.

I have nothing against the banjo, but I think every baby should be issued a personal historian at birth. I happily took on that assignment when my first grandchild, Gaby, was born on May 9, 2013. From her first moment, I have chronicled her life with photos and stories on Facebook and on my blog, First Grandma on the Planet.

Within two weeks of her arrival, Gaby had her first book. I made a copy for her parents, my daughter’s in-laws, and my husband and me. I’ve since added other books, including one for our son Michael (also known as First Uncle on the Planet), and a First Father’s Day book for my son-in-law.

I live 450 miles from Gaby and her parents, so this is a way for me to feel closer, but it’s also something I can do for the busy parents who have the greatest intentions of chronicling the baby’s days, but heck, they are exhausted—and I am a professional personal historian after all!

For years I’ve told anyone who would listen that everybody has a story to tell. Now with this new little person in my life, I believe that more than ever. Think of it as a variation on those immortal Dr. Seuss words, “A person is a person, no matter how small.” No matter how small, every person has a story.

Babies grow and change so quickly. It was a thrill for my husband and me to visit for Father’s Day and see how much she had changed in three short weeks since our previous visit. She’s learning about life while her parents and grandparents are learning about her.

What should you write about as a grandparent (or have a personal historian chronicle for you)?

  • Chronicle the specs: height, weight, sleeping habits, etc.
  • Log the funny things that happen—because the parents are probably too busy to write these down themselves.
  • Share your feelings about the baby as he/she grows and stories of what it was like when the baby’s mother or father was little.

What type of stories does a five-week-old baby have? Gaby, it seems, has quite definite opinions about life already. The other day my daughter told me that Gaby is not a fan of singer/actor Justin Timberlake. Maggie told me that Gaby started to cry in the car when Timberlake’s latest song came on the radio. When Maggie changed the station, Gaby stopped crying. That was no fluke. It happened three times. Maybe Gaby thinks Timberlake’s music is “old people’s” music.

I look forward to language development, wishing I had written down more of the funny things that my kids said. We all think we’ll remember everything our child says or does, or that we’ll write down the story behind a photo, but the reality is different.

In addition to stories about Gaby’s likes and dislikes, I’ve chronicled my feelings about being a grandmother, Gaby’s first phone call (from the clinic, with a staff member asking to speak with Gabrielle), and her adventures in crying, sleeping, and pooping. She’ll love those when she’s a teen.

But seriously, imagine the fun you’ll have one day sharing these stories with your grandchildren—and then imagine them one day sharing these stories with their grandchildren.

I encourage you to start now to save your grandchildren’s stories or hire a professional personal historian for assistance. We have members all over the world who can help.

~APH: Life, Story, People~

About today’s contributor: Susan T. Hessel calls her personal history business Lessons from Life, because she believes we all have stories, experiences, and lessons to share with current and future generations. Don’t try to convince her that she’s not the first grandma on the planet. It’s on the internet so it must be true.

This entry was posted in Family Stories, Life Stories, Life Stories as a Book, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Now It’s Really Personal: Saving Your Grandkids’ Stories

  1. Tom Gilbert says:

    Excellent post! Thanks for reminding us that life stories began at birth. It is natural to think about personal history as a reminiscence of the second half of life, but this is a great gift you are giving your grandbaby to be appreciated in the years to come.

  2. Fran Morley says:

    A personal history starting at birth—what a great idea! I hope Sue continues to document Gaby’s life as she grows. What will she have to say as a 5-year-old? As a pre-teen? As a young woman? And what a treasure this will be for Gaby and future generations as Sue keeps adding her own stories about being a grandma.

  3. Judy Fischer says:

    I have written stories for all of my children and a grandchild telling them the story of the day they were born. I wish my mother would have written something like that for me. These stories are priceless treasures.

  4. Liz Massey says:

    Great idea and a reminder that all people are living their personal history every moment they draw breath. And baby biographers are definitely a blessing to overwhelmed/tired new parents!

  5. Leslie Austin Johnson says:

    I am hoping to retire in the next few years and focus my new freedom on finishing my children’s baby books and memory pages. And, pay attention, my children are now 34 and 35!!! I have boxes of photos, school creations, cards, letters, scraps of paper with their funny sayings. They are all treasures. My son was known as “Jokie Johnson” for about 12 years and the scraps of paper will bring it all back. But (and pay attention again) I also have boxes of books, papers, photos, letters to and from my ancestors — going back to certificates from the 1850′s and war records from the 1700′s! Aaaargh. I only hope to make it through all these things and get them organized. SO — my message is to do these things NOW, QUICKLY, and have photos of your children and grandchildren in front of you to remind you why this is important. If you are able to have professional help, for heaven’s sake DO IT! A portion of our family treasures were lost in a house fire in Los Angeles years ago. And my mother’s Alzheimers took many more memories away. But I focus on what I have and hope you do too. It’s so very, very important!

  6. I have tried to do just this when my daughter was born because her grandparents live so far away. You can click on my name to see my blog. I doubt that I’ve captured everything, but hopefully it has been enough. It has already been fun to look back and see how much she has grown over the past 16 months.

  7. Pingback: Association of Personal Historians

  8. Pingback: Musings on Being My Grandchild’s Personal Historian | APH Blog

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