Ode to the Thank You Note

Once upon a time, several decades ago, a Tiger Mom forced her daughter to write thank you notes for every. single. gift she received from relatives in far away lands.  In her memory, the daughter was required to do that BEFORE even playing with her gifts!  Though, that could just be the hyperbole of memory suitable for blog posts such as this. Still, thank you notes were not optional. Because, she was told, “how will they know you received their gift?”  or “if you’d like to continue receiving gifts, you need to express your gratitude” and even “because I said so.”  And so, the daughter spent tens of minutes after each holiday, birthday, sacrament and graduation completing the tortuous task. And she grew up to….

 

inflict the same torture on her own daughters, continuing the vicious cycle.  Mwahahahaha!

 

Did you guess the daughter was/is me?  That’s because I have such smart readers!  But yes, I’ve always forced required my kids to hand write notes (on paper) that are delivered by a human being, not  a server in the sky.  WHY?
“It’s so old fashioned.” Gratitude never goes out of fashion.
“Who has time?” No one. No one has extra time. Or money.  No one has “extra” money or time to buy or make someone else a gift. Unless it’s a priority.
“I didn’t even want/like/ask for that gift.”  So what?  Someone thought enough of you to offer it to you and THAT deserves recognition and gratitude.

 

[As I proceed in writing this article, let it be known that I am not criticizing those who do not share my opinion on thank you notes!  Nor am I expecting one if and when I ever give you a gift, OK?!]

 

We write thank you notes to recognize the gift’s receipts and to express our gratitude not only for the gift, but also the PERSON who gave it and, from the perspective of a parent, to cultivate a relationship between our child and the gift bearer.

 

Our Thank You Notes through the Years

When my kids were very little, they could DICTATE their note through me, or I would just write it. As soon as they could write their names, they could sign the note.  Even before that, their scribbles were endearing enough to any relative to be considered “art work” on the paper.

 

As a homeschooling family, any time we had a set of thank you notes to write, those notes became that day’s handwriting, spelling and/or writing lesson.

 

If my child could write out a little, but was young enough that a entire note would be fatiguing, I moved to a “fill in the blank” model. I would create a photo copied template that they were to fill in and decorate.  Something like “Dear ___________, thank you so much for ___________.  I especially like ________________. With love, ________________”  Not only did this make it easier for everyone (including a Productive Mama), it taught them the basic model for such a note.

 

I never ask the kids to write a novel. First, a few lines of sincere gratitude go a long way. And the art work usually says much more, as they often included a drawing of them with or using the gift.  Second,  they will get discouraged and it will become a hugely dreaded chore.  Along these lines, if there are MANY notes to write, I break it up into manageable chunks. “Let’s do family in CA today, people from church tomorrow,” etc.

 

I believe the rule of thumb is to send a note to anyone you won’t see to thank in person.  I sometimes have the kids write notes to those they WILL see. This might be the case if the gift was an extra-special one for any reason (time involved, sentiment, any reason at all) or the occasion was once-in-a-lifetime (graduation, sacrament).

 

Words of gratitude CAN just be words. But taking time to compose, write, seal, address and send a thank you note is noticeable in our day and age.  And appreciated.  But no need to send a thank you note for the thank you note!

P.S.  Thanks, mom!

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