The 'Old-Fashioned' Life Skill I’m Teaching My Kids

Do you get many handwritten thank you notes from kids these days? I don’t and I really, really hope they’re not a thing of the past. We’re in an age when kids practically come out of the womb knowing how to email and text; by the time my three are in high school pencils and paper will probably be obsolete. Kids (and by extension parents) are also busier than ever, constantly racing from one activity to the next, iContraptions in hand. Sitting down with a pen to write a personal note seems downright old-fashioned. But it’s such an important skill to have, no? Growing up my mother always had me send personalized thank you notes and though I’m sure I’d groan when she’d make me sit at the kitchen counter and tell Aunt Judy why I love the Lite-Brite or Easy Bake Oven, I came to take pride in my notes. As an adult, I try to write them as often as I can for the little things and always for the big things. Of course my good intentions sometimes get eclipsed by other things on my to-do list so I am often in the weeds with my thank yous. Full disclosure: I currently have a two-page list of friends and family (many reading this post) who have sent wonderful gifts to my not-so newborn daughter and have yet to get a proper thank you note. But they will. Soon. Hopefully before she starts preschool.

Regardless of my current shortcomings in this department, thank you note writing is something I definitely want to pass on to my children. And so I’m starting now with my older two (ages six and almost four). My son, the six year old, has recently learned to read and write — and both kids are enthralled with the post office—so the novelty is there. I gave them each cute note cards in their stockings this year (I was always obsessed with stationery—still am) and we’ve been writing as much as we can. The note in the photo was written last month by my son Alex to one of the moms in his first grade class. She had gone in to teach the kids about a Hanukkah tradition (potato latkes) and because my son has a peanut allergy, his teacher wouldn’t let him eat any (she is super conservative about allergies and I can’t fault her for that). Alex was devastated because he loves good food and despite the fact that we are not Jewish, is obsessed with matzah ball soup and potato latkes (how could you not be?!). I happened to run into this mom, a neighbor, the next day and I told her how Alex couldn’t stop talking about missing the latkes. Later that day, she knocked on my door with a bag of them! And so the next morning, I told Alex he should write her a note and he sat down by himself and penned this (I had to spell latkes and breakfast). He gave the note to his classmate who gave it to her mom after school. Within minutes of returning from the bus stop I received an email from the mom saying what a nice gesture it was and how sweet Alex is.

It took exactly five minutes to write the note but it made her feel good, it made Alex feel good, it made me feel good and it taught my kids a lesson. That while it’s nice to be grateful when someone does something for us or gives us a gift, it’s important to take the time to send a quick note saying so. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t easy to get him to do anything and sitting still isn’t one of his best abilities. With three kids in the house (one of them a newborn), we’re lucky if we get homework done on time. I can’t tell you how many pieces of paper I have lying around that say “Dear”…. and then nothing. We have plenty of outstanding thank you notes and plenty of room for improvement. But we’re trying. Teaching good manners is a parenting priority to me and thank you notes are a big part of that. And it’s especially important to me that my son feels comfortable writing these notes as he becomes an adult. Maybe it’s just in my circle but it seems like thank you note writing often falls on the girl in a relationship (did your husband write any thank yous from your wedding? Mine didn’t!) and that note sending is more of a female thing in general. It shouldn’t be that way of course and I know there are guys who write beautiful thank yous. My husband has one friend who comes to visit every year and he sends the most thoughtful handwritten notes after his visits. Every time we get one I think: 1. His mother did a great job and 2. I want my son to be like that. Which is why we’re starting now.

Do your kids write thank you notes? Do you?