Thank you notes

Earlier this year, my son broached an idea to me: “Left alone, any child will learn everything and anything; all that we have to do is provide pathways to learning.” If only it worked that way. Left to their own devices, children certainly do not learn manners, not even the simple courtesy of saying thanks.
For instance, earlier this spring, an accident left me in charge of a 4-year-old’s party. I helped decorate the cake, handed out prizes, supervised games, told stories, initiated a coloring activity and had tea with the little ladies. The birthday child exploded with joy when she opened each gift, shared her bouquet of balloons and told me afterwards she was now almost 5.
That party took a lot more energy than I had. I was a walking zombie for days afterwards. Grandmother energy is NOT the same as mother energy. Not by a long shot.
A few days after we came home I received a crayoned thank-you note from the birthday child printed in large carefully drawn, if shaky, letters saying, “thank you.”
Momma had urged the birthday girl to write her own thank you notes. The child crayoned the words, but it was her mother who made the suggestion, handed her the cards, showed her how to write the eight letters and addressed the envelopes.
A few weeks later I found a package of children’s post cards at a garage sale. I sent one of her and her
cousins: They love to get mail. I received an e-mail back with a picture of a grinning elementary grandchild holding her card. She even answered my question.
She was the thankful recipient, but the big people were the ones who took the picture, helped her prepare the e-mail and made sure I received it: The first message disappeared into cyberspace. I was immensely pleased.
It’s also nice to know I am not the only mean mom in the world who insisted that before her offspring cashed the check, played with the toy or wore the clothes, they had to write a thank you note … even if they didn’t like the gift. I don’t care how my gifts are acknowledged, I just like to know that that the time I spent to prepare, wrap and present a gift or send a card is noticed.
I especially felt that way the year a number of family and friends had high school and college graduates. I sent something to a dozen graduates. Over the next several weeks, I received one sentence generic thank you notes on plain cards, elegantly scrolled notes of appreciation mentioning the gift and short letters of thanks. Occasionally, I even sense I had given them exactly what they wanted and needed.
I didn’t keep the cards. I didn’t check off every thank you note I received against a list of gifts sent – but I knew who had or had not replied.
Twelve gifts out, three thank you notes in … seven … 10 and finally 12.
In and of themselves, many of those graduates without prior training would not have thought about or taken the time to write a note of thanks. They wrote because at some time their parents prepared the pathways to social learning the graduates needed and pushed them down it. So, thanks, parents for preparing, and graduates for responding.