I’m a modern gal but sometimes I find certain parenting principles a bit overrated. For instance, I cringe when other people’s kids call me Mrs. Grossman. I get that they need to learn manners and respect and all that, but I feel like I’m missing my strand of pearls and bouffant hairdo.
I am still old-fashioned when it comes to some values, and my kids are the ones cringing when they hear the words, “You need to write your thank-you notes.”
Though we’ve embraced the electronic age in this house, a quick thank-you email just won’t do, even though the kids always ask. Schools may be leaning away from cursive, and maybe away from handwriting in my kids’ future, but I think my kids should know the value of a handwritten note sent through the post. They experience the thought put into a letter that was held by their grandmother, written in her unique penmanship on a card she picked out just for them to make them smile. She told them about her hermit crab or about the wildlife in her backyard. She took a minute to connect. She tucked in a swatch of fabric to show what the new doll bedspread will look like or maybe a few dollars to spend. My kids know this joy because someone put the time in to do it for them. Why shouldn’t they return the thoughtfulness? Not all of that can be done through an email.
When my kids sit at the table to write a thank-you note, they get out their colored pens and make every word a rainbow or they draw a picture of a roller coaster they rode together over the summer. Handwritten notes come from the heart. They’re personalized and sometimes a little too honest. They can be kept forever, the handwriting a testament to a child’s age at the time.
Reading what my kids write in them can definitely be a laughing matter. When my son received a dictionary from his grandparents for Christmas, his thank-you note stated, “Thank you for the dictionary. It makes a good ramp for my Matchbox cars.”
My daughter recently had a birthday. Seven seems so grown-up. I realized just how much when I read my daughter’s note. “Thank you for the gel pens. They work just perfectly.” To the giver of two Lego sets she wrote, “I put both sets together and they both look great.”
The giver doesn’t need to know that my kid stomped around for an hour in a sour mood before sitting down and letting that syrupy sweet prose flow from her pen. Givers don’t need to know that I eventually hound my kids for days to write their thank-yous and make idle threats in extreme cases. It’s like lighting a fire to damp wood, not impossible if you know what you’re doing.
The fact is, my kids learn by example. They try to write something meaningful by imitating the thoughts they’ve received in notes. It may come off as cute and a bit amusing now, but down the road I know my kids’ writing skills will be more heartfelt, spot-on, and exactly what the recipient wants to hear: that my kids appreciated being thought of. I know my kids are learning. They say their thank-yous in person to me. No fumbling, no fuss, just straight from the heart.