My Mom went to a wedding recently where on the gift table was a beautiful basket filled with small papers rolled up as scrolls with tiny ribbons. After taking one and opening it, she read the small words that said something to the effect of, “Thanks for your gift.” And that was that. She never heard from the bride or groom if they liked their present she’d brought, or if they’d even received it. I guess that’s better than the weddings I’ve been to where I never received a thank-you of any kind – let alone a pre-written generic thank-you.
Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I believe every gift, every thoughtful gesture and anything above-and-beyond deserves a thank-you – ideally, a hand-written card. I grew up writing cards for every birthday gift, Christmas package, etc. Later, as a young adult, I even wrote thank-you cards when invited over for particularly festive dinners. I believe that if someone is going to take the time to do something thoughtful for you, spending five minutes to show your appreciation is the least you can do.
I’ve passed these manners along to my own children and have required – as soon as they could put crayon to paper – that they send thank-you cards for gifts. There have been some cards that have been so cute, my Mom has called my children just to thank them for their thank-you’s. They are adorable, and apparently keepsakes: I was surprised when I asked my Mom recently if she’d kept any thank-you cards from my kids (her only grandkids to date). I promptly received five different photos of cards she’d kept and treasured. How sweet is that?!
Sure, I’ve received the occasional groan and reticence to write a card from my eldest – especially when I make him go back and add a bit more than “Thanks, love Paul”. But sometimes he’s truly surprised me by embellishing, drawing and having fun with his card. Here are a few things we do in our house that seem to make the card-writing (particularly after Christmas) not such a “chore:”
- Do it together. The two older kids and I sit at the table at the same time and write our cards. It’s fun to visit then fall quiet as we concentrate, and show off particularly artful creations.
- Use fun supplies. I usually buy a pack of stationary that has a variety of colors to mix and match between the paper and envelopes. I also break out “Mommy’s special markers” (my fine point Sharpies are my favorites – I have a bit of a pen fetish). I break out a collection of stickers and stamps for my youngest. Using my markers, stickers, and special stationary makes something ordinary a bit extraordinary.
- Add some delicious treats that you don’t normally have; I usually break open a box of chocolates or cookies we received or made for the holidays and put them on the table for us to snack on while we compose. We’ve even added some “Mommy Juice” (for me) and hot cocoa (for the kids) to our mix.
- For your younger kiddos, let them help you mail the cards. There’s something so fun about putting on a stamp, walking to the mailbox, and if you can time it right, watching the post-person pick up the mail. You can also talk about how excited the person will be when they open their own mailbox to see the card your little one created. It’s a fun experience and a nice way to get younger children interested in doing nice things for someone else.
Writing thank-you cards also encourages your children (and yourself) to pause and reflect on each gift and on each gift-giver. My children, sadly, sometimes don’t remember who a certain aunt of mine was who gave them a gift, as they only see her once a year. In the process of writing their cards, I can say, “Remember, Aunt Micha who has the bird that talked to you?” and as their eyes light up with remembrance, I’ve also seized the moment to help them reflect on the kindness of this family member.
How about you? Are you a thank-you card writer? Do you have any advice for instilling this tradition with your own kids?