Lindsay Schlegel reviews My Catholic Keepsake by Thy Olive Tree.
Memory books: they seem like such a good idea, but for so many moms end up a years-long guilt trip stowed in the back of a closet.
I don’t think I even tried to keep track of my first child’s milestones with a memory book, though at times I wish I did. My kids were asking recently what their first words were, and I was trying to remember when each one started to crawl. In the odd time warp of parenting those early years of my kids’ lives, I just lost track. I know I enjoyed each of these milestones in the moment, but part of me wishes I had something more than pictures to pass down to my kids.
When I started using My Catholic Keepsake with Baby Number Five this year, I started to understand why I wasn’t able — or perhaps rather, didn’t make much of an effort — to chronicle these developmental milestones. As exciting as they are, as many pictures as I have, and as often as I gushed about them to family and friends, when my kids crawled, walked, and got teeth are not the things I expect them to look back on with awe later in life.
Discerning Which Memories Matter
While I haven’t kept baby books for my kids, I have written each one letters since I was pregnant with him or her. (My youngest has many fewer letters than my oldest, but they exist.) None of them knows I’ve been doing this, and I intend to give the letters as a package when it’s time for each of my kids to move out of our home. In these letters, I tell my children what I love about them, sometimes what I’m struggling with (in a way appropriate for a parent-child relationship), what makes me proud of them, how much I love them, and over and over again I reiterate how grateful I am to be their mom.
I write these letters because I want my kids to know where they come from. I want them to know me. Eventually, when they are adults, I want them to have an understanding of how deeply I care for them and how special they are to me. I want them to have tangible evidence, should they ever come to doubt, that they are precious, cherished, loved, and worthy.
Making the Habit Stick
This intention is what makes me think I will finally be able to be consistent with a memory book. My Catholic Keepsake by Thy Olive Tree includes prompts to keep track of those typical milestones mentioned above, but it also has places to record baby’s first Mass, first pilgrimage, and more. These moments are even more important, in my mind, because they show my child that he is not simply a human and a member of this particular family, but he is a beloved son of God.
We celebrate baptismal days and feast days in our home. We prioritize these bonus dessert nights and things like saint stickers for the family calendar because they are important now, but also because they are formative. They are physical manifestations of the Faith we are doing our best to live out and pass on. So it is with this book.
I love that there are just enough prompts. Other memory books I’ve seen have too many places I might not fill in, which can make the whole thing seem lacking. I know I won’t use them all here (I already had to skip over the page for newborn footprints), but I expect I will use most. The few I don’t can be edited to better suit our family, without wrecking the design of the book.
An Antidote to Identity Confusion
As my children grow and the world tempts and challenges them, I am hopeful that the culture of faith we are cultivating in our home will be something they choose to continue living. But I’m aware that that isn’t entirely within my control. And that’s part of why I’m investing the time in this book now. I want this child to have a tangible reminder of the faith he was born into and raised in. I want him to be able to see how important this aspect of our family’s life is. I want him to know that this is who he is.
There is so much confusion in the world today among younger people about who they are and where they are going. I understand the desire to know those things. I think it’s borne into who we are as human beings. We need to know where we came from to know where we’re going.
But the real answer to those questions isn’t something the culture wants to accept. That we are children of God, and that our purpose is to love and serve Him and spend our eternity with Him in Heaven is heavily contested outside the walls of our home. This book is a tool and a gift in communicating this message, this reality, to my children. It’s a powerful representation of their identity as children of God.
And so it is worth every minute I put into it right now.
Copyright 2020 Lindsay Schlegel
Images copyright 2020 Lindsay Schlegel. All rights reserved.
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About the Author
Lindsay Schlegel is a daughter of God, wife, mom, editor, and speaker. She’s the author of Don’t Forget to Say Thank You: And Other Parenting Lessons That Brought Me Closer to God and host of the podcast Quote Me with Lindsay Schlegel. Lindsay seeks to encourage, inspire, and lift others up to be all they were created to be. Connect with Lindsay at her website, LindsaySchlegel.com.