The Story of Daily Panels

A few years back, something started bothering me: I was missing my daughters’ childhood.

Not that I wasn’t spending time with them – I spend a large part of every day with them. But my memory is pretty vague, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that important things – things I wanted to remember about my daughters and about their childhood – were slipping away into the foggy past.

When I tried to remember what we’d done in the past year, I’d come up with a few major events, and nothing else. All the day-to-day, the funny moments, the small adventures – gone. A blur. I had to find a way to record some of our lives together before it was too late. I started searching for a solution.

Attempt 1: Journaling

I’ve tried to start a journaling habit many times in my life, and it always falls to the same set of problems: If I kept a journal on my computer, I forget about it – sometimes for months. If I kept a journal in a notebook, I never, ever read it again because I can’t stand to read pages and pages of my scrawled handwriting.

Attempt 2: 365 questions

I got one of those “question-a-day” books, where you answer something about your life every day. I did this faithfully for 2-3 years, but looking back on my entries, I was struck with how pointless most of them were – they weren’t recording life, just trivia. Who cares what my favorite ice cream flavor was is 2016? Sometimes I would desperately scrawl life events in the margin, of cross out the question entirely, but I had to admit that it wasn’t a good solution.

Attempt 3: Photos

I tried capturing life with my phone, taking photos and videos whenever something memorable was happening. However, always focusing on capturing memories with my phone distanced me from life: my phone separated me from what was happening, it turned me into a spectator instead of a participant. It transformed my daughters and I into performers and cameraman.

It wouldn’t do.

I have an idea

I love comics. I grew up pouring over the comics in the newspaper, getting Tintin at the library, asking for collections of old newspaper comics for Christmas. There’s something about the combination of pictures and words that really grab my attention, in a way that the written word alone doesn’t.

I was reading Calvin and Hobbes with my daughter one day, when I had a brainstorm: I should draw a little comic every day. That way I could look back on my year, and instantly skim over all the life events that were important to me. I put together Daily Panels, as a sort of visual journal. I didn’t know then what it would become.

The idea transforms

A page from our Daily Panels.

Every morning I’d grab the Daily Panels book with my coffee, reflect on the previous day, and draw a little comic of what happened. After a month or two, my girls started to notice what I was doing. Then they started grabbing the book from me, and race off to see what “the new Daily Panel” was. Then they’d often go back to the beginning of the year and read over everything from the start, usually accompanied by bursts of giggles.

Then I started asking the girls to draw their own panels, from time to time. I had finally realized what Daily Panels was: it wasn’t just a visual journal, it was a shared record of our lives, a family history, written and illustrated by us.

We’ve been using Daily Panels every day since. We’ve recorded our vacations, funny things my 2-year-old has said, fantastic meals, the day-to-day mess and glory of living as a family. It’s been such an unexpectedly wonderful thing that I knew I had to send it out into the world, share it with you.

How it works

Inside Daily Panels, there’s a page for every week of the year. There’s a place for recording the date, and then the rest of the page is divided up into seven panels, with room for captions and notes. There are also big wide margins, useful for adding extra little memories as needed.

It’s got a glossy cover which will hold up well to the constant handling it will receive, and it’s cheap, with free shipping to pretty much everywhere.

It’s changed things

Since I started using Daily Panels, I don’t constantly worry about whether or not I’m forgetting my daughters’ childhoods. I no longer have the uncomfortable realization that I’ve forgotten most of what happened in the past month. When I think back on our year, I don’t wonder where it went: I have a vivid series of memories to look back on.

I want that for you. I want that for everyone.