Do you ever take walks with your child? How about a walk to the mailbox? Due to increased use of email, chances are you have done more of the former than the latter. However, if by some great stroke of luck you had the fortune of walking with a toddler to the mailbox, you may have experienced the very event that changed my life forever.
Things Would Never Be The Same
One afternoon, in the late spring of 1998, my then two-year old son met me at the door. I was on my way to the mailbox and he wanted to walk across the street with me to get the mail. As was our routine, we would walk and talk about anything on his mind.
Our conversations would include him asking a rapid succession of questions followed by me trying to answer as quickly as possible before he could retort “Why Daddy?”
However, on this day when we reached the mailbox, having already been exasperated from his prosecutorial line of questioning, my son asked me something that he had never before asked: “Daddy, where is my mail?” I stood silently for a moment realizing that my pint-sized prosecutor was not really making an inquiry as much as he was making a request.
I replied “Naeem, I can promise you, I don’t even want my mail.” Unmoved by my response, my son uttered once more as if to make sure I didn’t misunderstand him the first time, “Daddy, where is my mail?”
You’ve Got Mail!
Having no problem hearing and being adept at non-verbal communication, I went to the local Target to buy several greeting cards. My plan was to mail the cards to Naeem intermittently over the course of several weeks. As I started to sign the cards in the typical fashion parents do – “Love Dad” – I felt melancholy.
My son, my only son, the little guy who I professed to love more than life itself wanted mail and the best I could do was purchase a bunch of mass produced, impersonal greeting cards.
I signed the cards “Love Dad” but I wrote a whole lot more in those cards. I made the cards as personal as possible. I professed my undying love and devotion, expressed my hopes and plans for his bright future and committed to always being there for him.
A New Tradition Is Born
When the cards arrived, several unexpected things occurred. If you guessed that he wanted more mail with money in the envelopes the next time you would be correct. Personalizing those initial cards not only brought out the capitalist in him, but they had inspired him to want to read. By age four, he was reading beyond a first grade level and by the first grade he was reading beyond the sixth grade level.
Over the years, I have continued to write him and I imagine that I always will. I’m convinced writing him transformed not only his life but mine as well.
Writing my son has made our relationship stronger. Writing him has made us both better men. I believe writing a child gives a parent an opportunity to contemplate what they want and need to say before it is said. Writing a child provides a parent with an opportunity to look inward before acting outward.
Parents must remember that words have great power and that we have the responsibility to use words wisely. So I advocate that whenever possible parents take the time to write their children. In addition to refraining from saying something you can’t take back, you might create something that will last a lifetime and has unbelievable value – a love letter.
What do you think? Have you ever tried writing your child a letter? Why or why not? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.