If you have ever purchased a present for my children or me, I have two words for you: thank you. You haven’t just heard me say those words, you’ve read them in a handwritten thank you note. My mother taught me the importance of writing thank you notes when I was young. She walked me through the process every time I received a gift, until eventually I was able to complete them on my own.
All three of my kids just had birthdays, so it’s been a thank you note factory over here. I’ve been writing them, and so have my boys. But recently I overheard a conversation at a birthday party that stopped me in my tracks. The mom hosting the party and another guest laughed as they wrote down who had given which gift, as if they were ever going to write thank you notes. “Some people even send them in the mail!” they mocked. I couldn’t believe my ears.
My children (ages 12, 9, and 3) have been participating in thank you note writing since they were able to. When they were young, obviously I wrote the notes for them. As they got older, they’d dictate the notes to me and sign their names. Now the older two boys (much to their dismay) hand write each note. They each have their own style. One sits down and gets them all done in one shot. The other writes two notes per day, every day, until finally the blasted things are done. I don’t care, as long as they get written. I’m writing the notes for my 3-year-old and look forward to teaching her how to do them herself.
When someone takes the time to buy or make you a gift, it is the very least you can do to take a few moments to send them a note of thanks. I’ve noticed lately that many of the gifts I send go unacknowledged. I do not accept email or text thank-yous to be anywhere close to the gesture of a written note. I think that thank you note writing is becoming less of a must-do and more of a bonus. And I don’t like it at all. It’s not decent, and it’s not right.
I understand that large occasions like weddings or baby showers require dozens and dozens of notes. It is daunting to look at your list. It can be very time consuming. Now there are websites that do all of the work for you. Recently I received a personalized thank you note from a wedding with a photo of my husband and me with the bride and groom. The bride had written the note online and it was sent directly to my house. It was personal and I loved it. I would have loved this service 15 years ago when I got married.
One year for my son’s birthday, I wrote down who had sent which gift on a piece of paper that must have gotten tossed with the wrapping paper. I felt just horrible. I did the best I could but eventually resorted to emailing the moms I knew, explaining what had happened and asking for forgiveness. Any of them who know me know that I pride myself on my punctual, personal notes. It’s the thought that counts. Now I’ve learned to take the notes of who bought which gift on my phone so that I can’t lose them.
I’ll continue to send handwritten notes as long as there is a USPS to deliver them. So will my children. It’s basic common courtesy to thank someone for a gift, no matter the cost. I hope that the torture I’m imposing on my children now will one day be worth it. One day, as adults, they’ll get a gift and they’ll know exactly how to show their gratitude. They’ll be grateful and polite, and they’ll know exactly who to thank for it.