Once a month I write a letter to each of my children (at least those who read… I’ll add the others as they gain that skill) on a postcard and leave it on their bed. The postcard is usually of something interesting, so I remark on the image and then add other comments, things I want them to know, compliments, instruction, and messages of love. They enjoy and look forward to these postcards, and if I happen to be late, I am badgered until I catch up. It has been a good way to give them a written record of both my love and things I want them to know.
I never set out purposefully to do this, but fell into it. It started when my oldest went off to church camp to be a counselor. I have always made sure my younger children receive mail at camp, and though I knew she didn’t really need mail from me, I thought she would enjoy getting some. I found in my desk drawer some old postcards which were reprints of turn-of-the-century French advertisements. They were both charming and amusing, so I decided to use them. They were so charming and amusing that I couldn’t help giving a running commentary on the images and sending some words of encouragement and advice on being in charge of young girls. I sent them off and didn’t think anything of it.
It turns out that she loved them and had displayed in her room for quite some time and actually went back and reread them every so often. So when my second oldest went to camp as a counselor the next year, I did the same for him. I was out of interesting post cards in my desk so I headed to the local art store and was excited to discover that they sold sets of postcards of all sorts of things… artists, marketing posters, architecture, etc. They were so interesting that I bought several and used the post cards for all my camp correspondence, not just my older counselor-types. And the idea began to germinate, because there were so many interesting cards that it seemed a shame that I only sent my children letters when they were at camp.
Now this son, my second to be a counselor, is not always comfortable with heart-to-heart conversations, so I was interested that I found it easier to give him my words of wisdom in a written form. As I was writing to him, I once again found myself thinking it was a shame that I only did this once a year, because I, too, communicate far better in writing than talking face-to-face. Thus was my idea born. I realized that I didn’t need to wait until my children were away to write to them, I could write to them anytime I wanted.
This is actually a more purposeful variation on something I started with my daughters earlier. Once they reached about the age of 13, I gave them a notebook that we could use to communicate back and forth. It was a place where they could ask questions or tell me things and I could respond. We still use them occasionally, but I will admit that I need the monthly deadline to keep up my end. The other difficulty I discovered is that not all my children are as likely to want to write in it themselves, and if they don’t write, I am unlikely to write back. My postcard idea has the benefit of happening regardless of whether a child writes to me or not.
And the postcard is a small space. Sometimes that big sheet of blank paper can be a hindrance to writing because it just seems like such a large space to fill. Postcards are manageable and by first talking about the image it provides the prompt that I sometimes need to get me going. And then once I’m going, it also provides a stopping point, because I have a tendency to keep on going long past my children’s interest in the topic has ended.
I write this to spur you on to think about interesting ways you can communicate with your children. We live in a time period where receiving hand written letters is a rarity and I am just as guilty as anyone about that. Email and other electronic forms of communication are fast and easy, but not readily saved. I still have all the letters my grandmother sent me, one letter a week from the time I left for college until she died 15 years later. I want my children to have something similar from me to remind them of how much I love them.
Elizabeth Curry is on year 15 of homeschooling. Nine are still at home and her oldest is off to college. Devoted bookworms all, it’s not surprising that much of the learning that happens centers around whatever chapter book is being read. When she isn’t taking care of children or reading, she enjoys sewing, cooking, and writing. Her life of following Jesus with many children in the Big, Ugly House is chronicled at www.ordinary-time.blogspot.com .