3+ME: An everyday kind of love letter

Write out a message to someone you love.

Then send it two ways: in a text message, and in a letter.

Yep, that’s right, a good old-fashioned snail-mail piece of paper, complete with smudged ink and crossed-out misspellings because there’s no backspace button.

Which likely has more meaning?

Writing letters (and decorating them with paper and pipe-cleaner hearts) can be a cool way for the kids to stay in touch with loved ones they don’t see all that often.

Sure, texting and messaging is convenient, and gloriously instant. But there’s something about handwriting a note that, despite its anti-NOW-ness, is just plain endearing. No?

It shows that you were willing to put your phone down, along with all its distractions, and think solely about the recipient of your note as you wrote it. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but it seems so much more personal.

That’s something my husband and I wanted to show the kiddos.

So we hatched a plan.

Earlier this year, we’d gone on a trip with the kids and my parents — which had been my parents’ idea. They’d organized the whole thing, and we’d all gotten to reap the reward of a fantastic family vacation.

The proper thing to do, I realized, would be to send them a thank-you card. Now, normally, I don’t advocate for the “proper” thing. (If something is expected or predictable, it’s often more fun to do exactly the opposite.) But even I can admit that sometimes “proper” is just the right thing to do.

This was one of those times.

So instead of recording a little video message to send to my parents, or even me picking a card and having the kids sign their names (which is my usual approach for birthdays and holidays) — we were going to do this the old-fashioned way. And not only that, but we’d use it to kickoff a new biweekly tradition.

After breakfast one Sunday, I announced we’d be writing those thank-you cards to Nana and Papa — and I also pointed out something else.

“We’re actually gonna try to do this every weekend you guys are here,” I said. “Letters are a great way to stay in touch with people you don’t see all that often, not only Nana and Papa, but also Grandma and your aunt, too. So each weekend, you guys can write a little note to one of them, and we’ll mail it.”

I explained that each kid would write their own, so they could design and write whatever they wanted. That way, my stepson wouldn’t rely on his sister to do the designing, and my stepdaughter wouldn’t rely on her brother to do the writing.

“You don’t have to write a novel,” I told them, “but for the thank-you cards, make sure you say what your favorite part of the trip was. Be specific. And next time, with the regular letters, you can say what your favorite part of the week was.”

With surprising gusto, the kids accepted the proposal. We all traipsed down to the basement, grabbed some craft paper, and set to work — without a blip of complaint.

I expected them to spend more time on the design of the card then the actual writing, especially my 7-year-old stepdaughter, who’s still learning the ropes of reading and spelling.

But both of them kept the design simple, and dove right into the words. My stepdaughter actually wrote several complete sentences, which shocked me. My stepson got creative and used stencils to write every single letter of every word — and still covered all the bases of a “proper” thank-you note.

When my parents received the letters a few days later (including one from me and my husband, because we wrote one alongside the kids. You know, lead by example and all that.) — they texted us a photo and lots of happy emojis. (See, texting has its place in the letter-writing process, too.)

As we (plan to) write more consistently in the future, it’ll be good for the kids to slow down, away from screens, and put pen to paper.

It also shows them they don’t need to wait for a special occasion, or even Valentine’s Day, to share the love with their favorite humans. That’s a note worth sending any day of the year.

Originally published in The Herald News on Feb. 10, 2019.

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