The other day Eliza was, for lack of a better word, badgering me about buying a journal. She really wanted a leather one she’d seen and couldn’t I just buy it for her, please. It was only $30. I tried to explain that $30 for a leather journal seemed like a lot of money to me.
“Why do you want leather?” I asked.
“I just like it,” she said. “I like the way it looks.”
“Couldn’t you just get one with a paper cover, it would cost a lot less,” I told her.
“I really want leather,” she said. “Like yours.”
I have a journal that I bought nine years ago for me and Seth to write in over the years when we were moved to do so. I gave it to him for our first anniversary with the thought that we could somehow document our lives together. It doesn’t have as many entries as I might have thought after 10 years of marriage but it does have some and when I read them I can place us exactly in that time. This was the point.
Recently, Eliza found this journal and she’s treating it like contraband.
“What’s in it?” she asks. “Secrets? Is it private? Why won’t you read it to me? Why can’t I read it? Why can’t I write in it, there are so many blank pages?”
“It’s personal,” I said. “It’s between me and daddy.”
She really didn’t like that answer.
I wrestled with why I was being so adamant about why I didn’t want her to play with it. I felt a little like a two-year-old. It’s mine! It’s ours! It’s not yours! And, in the end, that’s kind of what it came down to. I fumbled and stammered. I was completely inarticulate. These things are hard to explain to a seven-year-old.
How do you say to her, we had a life before you. We know each other in ways that you won’t understand, that you can’t understand. You are the center of our world, truly you are. We share everything, almost, with you. But this, this little book wrapped closed with a leather strap is a series of moments between us, for us. We existed before you. We exist beyond you.
I didn’t say any of these things to her. I just stuck with my vague no and told her we could look for a less expensive journal that she could buy with her own money. She was momentarily satisfied. I tucked the journal away hoping she would forget about it for a little while and made a mental note to write in it more often.