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Recording Memories

Ever since we became parents, people have asked whether we've shot video of fun childhood moments. Not just first roll, first steps, first words. But the kind of moments our kids might never believe. Like 6-year-old talking about his career plans to run Legoland and charge everyone $1 -- or even nothing -- for the toys so that all the kids can afford them. Or 3-year-old's LOUD singing that emanates from the bathroom.

A co-worker once regaled me with stories about how his kids loved to watch old videos of themselves. But the video camera just isn't my thing. Instead, I take tons of digital photos and have kept written journals about the boys' successes, failures, funnies and sweet moments. I tape photos and particularly interesting artwork in them. When they want to see pictures of themselves as babies, I'll pull the books out and show them how they've grown.

Mom Adrienne Benson Scherger chose a different route. She writes birthday letters to her children each year. "My birthday letters catalogued distinct areas of parenthood. I explained my mistakes, I expressed my devotion and I listed how the birthday boy had grown. I recorded my own birth into parenthood, too: my rebirth into a new person, permanently attached to someone else. Writing to my children became a way to explain to them who I was before they came into my life, before my days were punctuated with Cheerios and Legos, sippy cups and sloppy kisses. ... In the birthday letters I write to each of my two sons, I always end with a wish. I like feeling that these hopes for them are their real birthday present."

Those letters strike me as a more personal version of the annual holiday letters that will probably start arriving in my mailbox in the next few days and weeks. Those yearly notes always keep me up-to-date on long-distance friends and family and their children.

What do you do to record your kids' growing years? Do you ever show them to your children?

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By Stacey Garfinkle |  December 14, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Babies , Elementary Schoolers , Preschoolers , Teens , Tweens
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I'm really good at pictures, but only so-so at videos and writing down important milestone dates. I can ballpark most of the stuff, but as long as it's in the normal range, there's no need to document everything. I do post a ton on a bulletin board I joined. I wish I had kept all of those posts, because it would make for a great baby diary.

My husband just told me yesterday that one of his patients was tellling him how terrible he was about taking pix of his kids, and now the kids are ticked! Something to think about. And watching old videos of your baby self is pretty cool. It's hard to imagine we were ever that small.

Posted by: atb | December 14, 2007 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Whatever you do, please don't forget to take plenty of pictures of mom and dad, too. Don't do what my wife and I did, which was take tons of pictures of the kids, but none of my wife, who I lost suddenly two years ago. Boy do I wish I had spent some of my time focusing on her instead of my kids.

Posted by: jim | December 14, 2007 8:42 AM | Report abuse

I'm a photo person--I always take tons of photos of both special events and everyday stuff, then slap them all in a scrapbook. The kids love looking through the old scrapbooks. And I'm glad I wrote explanatory things about the photos because now I look at baby pictures and can't tell which kid is which!

I just got a video camera last Mother's Day and it hasn't gotten much use. I did get some shots of my daughter learning to ride her bike, which will probably be nice to have. Mostly I just forget that I have it, so I don't think to take it out. And since I can't operate two cameras at once, if I had to choose I'd always go with the still camera.

Posted by: Sarah | December 14, 2007 9:27 AM | Report abuse

The problem with video is capturing spontaneous things. We pull it out for events, but don't usually have it sitting around. quite often the moment is gone before you could get it going (same for pictures for that matter).

Posted by: ah | December 14, 2007 9:53 AM | Report abuse

We have about 1000 pictures of our first born child, 500 of our second, 200 of our third, and about 100 of our fourth before they reached kindergarten.

Every few years or so, I write letters to my kids on their birthday. My wife cherishes them as she usually ends up crying from the sentiment. She has saved the hardcopies in her hope chest because we had to reconstruct a few due to a computer crash.

At the end of each letter, I make a prediction about how the birthday kid will change in the upcoming few years. Neat!

Posted by: GutlessCoward | December 14, 2007 10:08 AM | Report abuse

I admit to being sick about the fact that my son will graduate high school and I have very little video of him although a decent number of photos. My daughter, who is much younger, is in the same boat.

I plan to get my act together some day and it should be soon!

I saw a fantastic idea in a magazine. A photographer takes photos of each family member on his or her birthday every year.

Not quite a mugshot, it's a posed headshot that would show change from year to year.

I guess it's not too late to start.

I also love the idea of writing letters. When my father died 10 years ago, I realized I had very little from him that was handwritten, and no letters to speak of. I now save my mother's little notes and cards. She is not a letter writer. So I keep her shopping lists!

Posted by: Kate | December 14, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm also bad about video but my husband is better with that. He also takes a head shot and a full body shot of our daughter (20 mo.) every morning as they leave for daycare. It's just part of their routine. He intends to make a "video" out of it with her face changing over time.

I bought a digital voice recorder that I really should use more often now that we are at the beginning of the word avalanche! I also need to record her "reading" books - it's just too funny. I find that video is nice but the voice recorder is more discreet.

Posted by: MaryB | December 14, 2007 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Most digital cameras nowadays come with a video setting, so you can record short clips. I have taken about 40 short clips of my child doing everything from hiccupping to trying to sing "Deck the Halls" back to her grandmother, and it's really cute!! You don't need to lug out the camcorder nowadays!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 14, 2007 6:52 PM | Report abuse

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