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Write Your Kids a Letter

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Write your kids a letter. It sounds like an easy thing to do, but with work and school and life it just doesn’t seem to happen. It’s 10 p.m. and I have a long list of things to get done tonight. There’s a sink full of dishes, two more loads of laundry, and bottles that need washed. Tonight, I finally put it all on hold for ten minutes and I wrote my kids a letter.

I’ve always loved letters. I loved the idea that you could put thoughts on paper and then hold those thoughts in your hand. And keep them. Before my oldest was born, I wrote her a letter. I wanted her to know how much I loved her before I ever met her. I didn’t know what to get her that first Christmas. I wanted it to be something she could keep forever, something that would matter someday. So I wrote her a letter.

Over the years, I have tried to write each of my kids a letter at least a couple of times a year. Sometimes it is for a special occasion and sometimes it’s just because. My mom was a letter writer. She wrote me a note on a napkin every school morning. She sent me notes in the mail in college, even though e-mail would’ve been easier. She sent me thoughts I could hold, and in a box, I still have every letter she sent. My dad died when I was young. Although he didn’t die suddenly, his cancer was first found due to word-finding difficulty. There was never a letter of advice for a lifetime without him because by the time we realized I wouldn’t have him for all my tomorrows, he could no longer find the words. I wish there was a letter that told me all about my 2nd grade birthday when he took me out to lunch. I remember a few moments from that day, but I wish I could remember more. I wish there was a letter about his dad that I never got to meet. I wish there was more I could’ve known about him, about me, about the places we went. That’s one reason I write my kids letters.

I have so much I want to tell them, teach them. Maybe I write to them for myself as much as I do for them. I never want to forget the way my daughter pronounces lasagna “masagna” or the way they call their lunch boxes “lunch pails”. I never want to forget what they said to their baby brother the moment they first met him in the NICU and all they did for him when we finally got to bring him home. There are so many one-liners that I swear I’ll never forget, but if I don’t write them down, I do forget. Someday I want her to know that one day at preschool pickup, her teacher told me she was a friend to a classmate that had a hard time making friends. I want them to remember our special Monday night dinner dates after ballet and our favorite summer trips to the lake. I want them to remember the days that didn’t go the way we thought they would – and the way we persevered through it. I want my son to know the story of his arrival into this world and the people who helped save him. I want my kids to know how fiercely proud I am of them. I want them to know how much I love them and I want them to have the words they can hold in their hands. They don’t yet know I have a pile of letters for them. Before my oldest started kindergarten, I wrote her a letter ( which was the first one I ever read to her. She smiled from ear to ear the entire time as I tried to read the words through my tears. Even if she didn’t understand it all, she knew it was just for her, from me.

I volunteer in my daughters’ school lunchroom. I love the way faces light up when kids read lunch notes from their parents. I love the way the kindergartners raise their hands to have the staff come read what a note says, even if it’s the same note every day that says “ I love you , Mom”. We love to hold the words in our hands.

Sometimes I start to write a letter but I never get a chance to finish it. I still file it away, for them to have someday. The feelings I felt or the events of that day are still worth writing about, even if my thoughts got distracted by life and I never get to finish it. Letters take time, whether handwritten or typed. They take a lot of time, which is exactly what also makes us appreciate them. Tomorrow night at this time, I will again have two loads of laundry and a sink full of dishes. Sometimes (actually, all of the time) I feel as if there is nothing to show for the amount of effort I put into the everyday duties of a household. Then I write, and that stands out as something for tonight. The minutes we put into writing, into telling those we love just how much we love them, those minutes will borrow time from today that can be read over and over again for the somedays to come.

Write your kids a letter. Remind them how much you love them and remind them of all the reasons why.

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