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.