When Stephanie Skylar started writing daily notes to her daughter in the sixth grade, she never imagined what they would become 11 years later.
Skylar dropped the letters in her daughter Skylar Gould’s lunchbox as a way to stay connected during the day. The notes would include messages that ran the gamut from touching to silly, such as “Don’t be quick to judge the girls at school. It’s up to you to look for something good in each one,” and “Too much TV will rot your mind!”
Gould, 23, kept each and every letter in a shoebox, and 11 years later, she has revisited the notes for her graphic design master’s thesis project at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication.
“I had forgotten they existed, and I came across a book about handwritten letters and I had an epiphany where i remembered about them,” Gould told ABC News. “I called my mom and she still had them all. I started working on my project and it evolved into a website over the past year.”
Gould kept the project a secret from her mother, finally sending her the link to the website, Advice From My Mom on Skylar’s birthday in April.
“Of course I burst out crying; I was so thrilled and touched. It was amazing she did this, and it was certainly effective for her project,” Skylar told ABC News.
Skylar, a full-time working mother, wrote the notes as a way to stay connected even on days she couldn’t physically see Gould.
“It’s kind of an age where a lot can change going into preteen to teenage years, and I really wanted to have a touch point with Skye every day in some way, shape or form that might give her pause to read something without her mother hovering,” Skylar explained. “Some days I just didn’t have any thoughts at all to say, but I’d come up with things like, 'If you can’t say something nice, keep your mouth shut.’ Not very sophisticated, but at the time it was applicable.”
The advice ended up being extremely applicable staying with Gould as she matured.
“It was important to me and I loved getting them. Rereading them for the first time [for the project], there were things that stuck with me that I didn’t realize stuck with me,” Gould said. “I think my sense of confidence comes from them. I was always really shy as a kid, but through my young adulthood so far I’ve had that sense of confidence and pride in myself and my work because of how my mother has always talked to me. Through the written word, it really stays with you more than just hearing it every day.” As a part of the project, Gould gave some advice to her mom in return in advance of her upcoming retirement.
“Be proud of yourself and have all of the adventures that you want and deserve. This is such a great time for you (even though it’s stressful now).”
Skylar’s reaction to her advice was touching.
“She’s kind and funny and it just turned out great,” she said. “Obviously those messages sunk in at some point; it just took 23 years to get it there.”
The notes were good for one more thing, too: Gould passed her master’s program and is graduating shortly.