Dear Diary

January 22,2009
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

L. is all over these books lately. He asked for books one and two for Christmas and I gladly obliged. He rarely expresses any interest in books that are "fiction" and not detailed guides to his latest obsession (in this case aviation). But I had noticed in the weeks leading up to the holiday break that almost all the kids in his class were buying the books at the Scholastic book fair and toting around copies of them, laughing at the jokes, and swapping "how far have you read?" challenges. When L. casually mentioned one day that HE wanted to read them, I jumped at the chance and bought both of them for him. He devoured them in one day. At this point he's read them both maybe ten times over--each, and I'm currently also reading the second one to him at bedtime. Because the books integrate text with cartoons, they are perfect for him. He has all the cartoons memorized, so at any point in our reading he can interject and tell me, word-for-word, what the cartoon depicts. I like the second book better than the first one, mainly because the first book has a butt joke in it that we ended up having to listen to for days and days and days after L. discovered it. It was just the kind of joke a third-grader (or a preschooler, for that matter) would find absolutely hilarious. I know you are dying to find out what it is, so I'll share it here: The Joke At first I was a little annoyed at Jeff Kinney for putting those type of jokes into a book for kids, because the last thing a third-grader needs is more butt jokes to tell when he's at the dinner table. What I really do like about the books, aside from the fact that L. reads them and loves them, is that they are diaries. I love reading diary books--whether they are made-up diaries or real ones. I gobbled up these books when I was younger, and of course this one haunted me for months after I read it. When I grew up I read this, and it influenced a huge chunk of my graduate work. I kept my own paper diary for years, up until my second year in college. I have the books stacked in my bedroom, and I still look through them from time to time, marveling at the person I was when I wrote them, and at the person I am now--still me after all these years, but a more faceted, interesting me, who continues to grow and develop. My love for chronicling life led me to blog, of course, which in turn led me to this job at FamilyEducation. All through the years, through so many changes and ups and downs and challenges and joys, writing and chronicling it all has been a necessary constant for me. And now, wonder of all wonders, L. is keeping his very own diary. My sister gave him a fancy notebook a year (or more?) ago, and he's been writing in it faithfully every night. Just short, one- or two-line entries with a cartoon, stick-figure drawing below (he showed me one--never fear--I am not sneaking into his diary every night). But it's a diary nonetheless, and I'm wild about this. This is really big for L. Really big. Maybe it won't last long in the end, or maybe it will. Maybe he'll be a diary-lover like me, or maybe he won't; but I'm grateful to the Wimpy Kid books for igniting this spark in him, for giving him an interest in jotting down a line or two about his day. Writing doesn't come at all easily for L., but I think--with that down-in-my-soul Mama's intuition, that L. might have a love for it inside of him, a dormant need to declare himself to the world. Thank you, Jeff Kinney.