“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know. “
When I was pregnant with my first child, I did what many newly expectant mothers do: I kept a journal. I waxed of every kick and squirm, every decision we made in planning his birth, even about all those tomatoes I was craving. I managed to keep up with the journal for a few weeks following his birth, but then life with a new baby set in and somewhere between the piles of diapers and the sleepless nights, the journal was, well, forgotten.
When my baby was six months old, I woke early one morning and listening to the sweet call of the birds, I realized, as cliché as it sounded, how fleeting these moments with my baby were. How he would never know about this precious time or those chubby little thighs, his coos and gurgles that made me swell with so much love. He would never know, unless I told him. So, with his sweet sleepy sighs nearby, I sat down and wrote him a letter.
Many of us do all the things we can to record our children’s upbringing: photo albums, keepsake boxes, locks of hair, quilts pieced together with bits of first clothes, videos on YouTube for far away friends and family to keep up with their growing, handprints in plaster, scraps of the blankies and first stuffed friends. The ways in which we record (and in most ways hope to preserve) this special time are varied and all special in their own way. But a letter is something different, something altogether and all at once unique, heartwarming, and distinctively extraordinary.
Why write letters?
It is a well-known fact that good old-fashioned letter writing is becoming (or maybe even already has become) a lost art form. Perhaps it is time to have a letter writing revival. The best place to start? With our children. And in today’s world of texting and emails, writing letters to children may have never felt so intimidating or “outdated”. Still, letters from the people we love will always have a special place in all our hearts. Even more, letters in our own handwriting, offer an extra special memento that makes any snapshot in time that much more treasured.
What to put in a letter
The first letter I wrote to my son, was truly a letter, as if written to a far off friend, catching him up on my life, as well as his. It was a baby book and diary all rolled into one. Since then, we’ve penned him similar ones, but also poems, stories about special moments, and songs. We’ve written quick notes telling him we loved him, goofy limericks, and even dramatized stories based on his real life and the antics of his childhood. And for pre-readers, a letter full of hand drawn pictures that portray the moments you want to share is perfectly wonderful! The ways and means of writing letters to our children are as varied as the children who will receive them, and just as special.
When to write a letter
The intervals at which you write letters to your child can range from a daily lunch box note to a yearly narrative. If it can become a ritual, such as on the child’s adoption, birth, or other commemorative day, then you will be more likely to keep doing it year after year. Consider balancing some special, smaller notes with longer more heartfelt letters.
What to do with the letter
When each of our children were born, we purchased a trunk for their special “keepsakes”. In them we place newspapers from the day they were born and other special days in their history, first clothes, special gifts, and of course their yearly letters (and other little ones in between). Sometimes, I place letters within photo albums, pack them in a lunch, stick them on the fridge, or tuck them in whatever book they are reading.
Did you know that April is National Letter Writing Month in the US? Quick, before the month is over, write a few words to your children today and tuck it away for their tomorrows.