I have a confession. My kids haven’t written thank you notes in two years, and it’s killing me.
After each of my children’s birthday parties, I carefully compile the obligatory list of gifts and guests, always with great intentions. Then I put the list on my desk and it sits there. Forever. A few birthdays ago, I managed to get two thank you notes into the mail, and I’m certain that the moms of those two kids thought I really had my shit together.
When I was growing up, I always wrote thank you notes. My mom insisted, and I obliged…except for maybe a few stragglers after my bat mitzvah. It wasn’t always easy or fun, but the job got done, because there wasn’t any other choice. After my bridal shower and wedding I wrote thank you notes, and after all four of my kids were born, I wrote again, again, and again.
So what happened between then and now? Why am I finding it so hard to transfer this simple skill to my children? What did my mom do that I can’t? Maybe it’s the whining, the misspellings, the embarrassing chicken scratch, or the “homework” style process, with me in the role of demanding teacher. Maybe it’s technology? There’s something about a texted “thank you” that just doesn’t feel right. Whatever it is, I absolutely hate managing my four kids through thank-you notes. I’d rather push them through our weekly bathroom cleaning routine, and that’s REALLY bad.
A while back, in an effort to provide some much-needed inspiration, I spent a small fortune on personalized stationery for everyone, each with a unique design. When it arrived, I proudly presented each child with their own special thank you note kit, certain that they’d sit down and immediately write one to me. After a brief argument between my twins because one wanted what the other had (duh, they’re personalized) they all walked away and never cared again.
I considered putting my husband on thank-you note detail, but thought better of it. Running a business with six locations and 100 employees just doesn’t prepare a person for this type of challenge. These small employees still have to be kissed goodnight. No, this requires deep-down mommy grit. The kind that you draw on when you’re covered in spit-up and haven’t brushed your hair for weeks, or when you finally sit down after the littles are in bed, and are immediately tasked to proofread a term paper.
In my house, writing thank you notes calls for drawing lines with a ruler and spelling the names of obscure relatives, letter by letter. It calls for digging up the holiday card list to find lost addresses, a mini lesson on where the stamp goes on the envelope, and what a return address is. We complete one thank you note per day to keep focus and neatness at its peak. It’s excruciating, but it’s time I got over it.
The problem is that my kids are so behind in thank you notes that it could actually take years to catch up. So I’ve decided that we won’t even try. We’re going to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. The kids can do this. I can do this. We can do this. So to all the friends and relatives who have ever sent gifts to my children and never received a thank-you note, we genuinely thank you for your kindness and generosity. The twins will celebrate their birthday in August, and we hope you can make it. No gifts, please.
Abby Helman Kelly is the founder and owner of www.glutenfreeconnecticut.com, the state’s most comprehensive and up-to-date gluten-free resource. She can be reached at email@example.com