Letters to a Young Child
Try to imagine your child 25 years from now. He's living on his own, and it's a lonely Saturday for him. He stumbles upon his beloved treasure box, and begins rummaging through its contents. Wouldn't you be happy to know that inside that box are all the little notes, now yellowing, that you wrote to him as a little boy, in which you said all the things that were in your heart at the time? He thought enough of these notes as a boy to save them because they were the dearest things in his life, and 25 years later, they were a tangible reminder of his parents love for him.
I know this feeling from my own experience. My father was not one to write many words on paper — the only ones I ever received from him are those he penned in my elementary school autograph book. He wrote: "I wish I was gifted with words good enough to tell you what a swell boy I have for a son. God Bless You. Love, Daddy."
Those words stayed with me all my life, and I look at them from time to time when I need reassurance. Your son or daughter, no matter how old, will treasure and hang on to your words, too, even if you have only a few within you to offer. Your child needs to hear good words from you as he makes the journey through life. Believe me, you have good stuff to share with your children, if only you'll take a few moments to write.
The Written Connection
In today's fast-paced life, letters are a personalized way to stay in touch with your child, even as you are separated from each other during the day. They can help you stay connected with your children as you compete against television and computer games for their attention. Writing such notes is a fine way to communicate your family's values and your own love of writing and reading. Notes from you are sure to be read and to make the practice of reading meaningful and entertaining.
You can place your simple notes in your children's lunch boxes or knapsacks before they leave for school, to be opened later in the day, or you can place them under the pillow of a sleeping child to be discovered upon waking. Slip them under a bedroom door, give them on special occasions such as birthdays, or even post them on the refrigerator door. The idea is to be creative and fun! You can also encourage grandparents, aunts and uncles, and godparents to mail letters to your child.
I first started writing such notes to my daughter, Carlota, when she began losing her baby teeth. Using shaky, squiggly script, I would write notes to her from the Tooth Fairy each time she lost a tooth. In these letters, the Tooth Fairy would marvel at how quickly Carlota was growing up and on the beautiful tooth that she would add to her baby tooth collection. The Tooth Fairy would also comment on some new achievement by my daughter, such as learning how to ride a bicycle or to read.
In time, as my daughter got older and went to summer camp, I would write her notes in the "voice" and "paw-writing" of her beloved dog, Dynamite. I tried to infuse these letters with humor and fun. Plus, I loved writing in the mindset of a four-footed animal, and I knew the letters would make my daughter giggle. Carlota would write to me from camp, and even years later from college, telling me she longed for more letters from Dynamite.
You can start writing simple notes to your child as soon as she starts making out words in a favorite book. Using or embellishing your notes with pictures and illustrations will help get the point across. For younger kids who are not yet reading, draw a simple picture with one or two words (or the names of family members) they recognize. The idea behind such notes is to let your child know you're thinking of him, so whatever you include in the letter, no matter how brief, is just right. Every child knows that hearts mean love, so fill a page with them.
When you're going to be on a trip away from your child for a few days, remember to take along postcards on which you can write about your trip and mail them to your youngster at home. Don't you still remember how happy you were as a child to receive such a postcard or greeting card from someone you loved? (E-mail is fine, too, but nothing beats a handwritten letter.)
Write your notes on colorful paper to enhance the experience. Perhaps even write a riddle in the corner, such as "What does a ghost read every day?" (Answer: His horrorscope.) Buy some little bags of tiny cutout heart shapes or star shapes made of glittery tinsel, and sprinkle them into a folded letter so that when you child opens the letter, a little magic pours out along with your loving words.
There are all kinds of subjects you can write about to your children. Think about their interests, loves, worries, and fears. Let your own lives be the inspiration. Here are some ideas:
- Notes can be simple expressions of love: "Just a note to tell you how much I love you. I think of you often during the day!" To have even more fun, you can write the letter in a secret code or even by spelling words backwards or in mirror writing.
- Notes can offer encouragement: "I know you will do your best today, as you do each day in your life. Keep that happy smile on your face."
- Some notes can be just for fun, such as this note from the family cat: "Can't wait for you to come home today from school (meow) and play with me. It's pretty boring when you're not here. Nobody rubs my tummy the way you do (purr)."
- Notes can be interactive: "Check the box you like! We've both been so busy — you with school, me with work. Let's make some time together to have fun. Please check the one thing you want to do the most:"
[ ] Go out for pizza
[ ] Go to a movie
[ ] Go to the beach
[ ] Take a walk together
[ ] Your suggestion: ____________
- Notes can give thanks: "Thanks for giving the dog a good brushing yesterday. She really enjoyed it. She says, ‘Thank you, have a good day, arf, arf, arf.'"
Writing notes to young people, expressing love to another, is an act of pleasure, both for the writer and for the recipient. Every note you send to your child is like laying another brick in the foundation of your child's life. It is a way of connecting. Each note conveys to your child that she is loved and cherished and need not feel alone — that there is someone walking in the world today who loves her, and loves strongly enough to put those feelings in writing.