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Daily journal serves double duty when Dad’s deployed

Submitted by on Monday, 12 April 2010 No Comment

For Big Guy, the timing couldn’t have been better on Dad’s arrival at his base in Afghanistan.

Dad was getting settled just as Big Guy’s school had a round of parent-teacher conferences. Big Guy’s went well, with one major exception: His hand writing. But, then, I knew that was coming.

Big Guy struggled with penmanship all through kindergarten, finally settling into some level of legibility at the end of the year. The July 4th broken wrist caused him to backslide, and after the cast came off he didn’t seem terribly motivated to improve. It was as if he’d put himself in the niche of “bad writer” and had no desire to change that. In some ways, his writing actually got worse as he rushed through it in his haste to move on to the next thing.

Once we got Dad’s mailing address, though, I decided to go back to daily journal writing. We went to the PX to buy “Daddy journal” notebooks – they’re really just garden-variety spiral binders, but don’t tell the guys that. They think they’re special and cool because the covers are in their respective favorite colors.

We’d done the same thing it last spring, when Dad was at basic training, and the guys had enjoyed it. Back then, though, Big Guy could write only a few words. Unfortunately, he remembered the way he’d done it a year ago.

“I love you. I miss you. Love, Big Guy.”

OK so can we try something different, I asked as he wrote the same sentences for the third day running. Maybe tell Dad about your day, I suggested.

After much moaning and groaning, he started doing that. “I played tag. I played basketball. I played with BFF.”

The problem was, no one other than Big Guy could read it. Sometimes even I couldn’t make it out five minutes later, even though I’d been standing right beside him when he’d written in. “Do you think you can try really hard to make it neat? Daddy loves getting your letters, but he needs to be able to figure out what they say.”

More moaning and groaning, with eye rolling added for emphasis. “Oh, all right,” he pouted.

After about a week of moaning, groaning and eye rolling, he suddenly decided he didn’t need additional nagging. Or maybe he was just tired of hearing it. “You know what?” he asked. “I’m going to try really hard and make it really nice today.”

And, lo and behold, he did. Not perfect, mind you, but much better than he’d ever done before. I don’t expect perfect anyway – he is my son, and my handwriting has been compared to the remnants on the floor of a salon after someone with really curly hair gets it cut.

Boots, meanwhile, has decided that a picture journal is for babies and wants to write real sentences.

Yes, you guessed it. “I love you Daddy.” Maybe this week he’ll add “I miss you” to the mix.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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