For as long as I can remember, I have had an encyclopedic version of Emily Post’s “Etiquette” on my bookshelf. It, along with Strunk & White and my falling-apart copy of “The World According to Garp,” is among my mainstays. The version I have of Post allows you to tab quickly through sections devoted to invitations, entertaining, condolences and weddings.
So, it should come as no surprise that I’m a real devotee of the thank-you note. Still, I am a woman of reason, and a woman of not infinite time and means (see: child care, nine scant hours per week; toddlers: two; sanity: almost zero).
I recognize, and appreciate, the texted photo that says, “We love this gift and we are using it!” And I adore the Paperless Post thank-you note because it tells me that you were able to write them and cross them off your list while catching up on this week’s episode of “Last Week Tonight.” I have no judgment about the way and style in which you choose to acknowledge a gift or a kindness, I just ask so kindly that you do it eventually, and that you teach your children well.
Still, it is has been tough for me to accept the fact that I am now responsible for the gratitude-giving for three out of the four, or, let’s be honest, four out of the four, members of my family (not actually completely true – my husband has the most delicious stationery and writes a stellar thank-you note). I have struggled for years with how to appropriately give thanks and gratitude on behalf of my children for birthday and Christmas gifts.
Put the kids to work
I came up with a solution and I hope that if you are having these same gratitude worries, this helps you. One thing that most families with kids have, in abundance, is handmade art. My children are prolific. My oldest, 5, will make her own compositions, and my son, almost 4, will color in shapes if I make them on the page.
My suggestion for customized thank-you notes is that you either use a piece of artwork that your child has already created at school or at home, or you commission one from him or her. Last year, I used a watercolor painting of a unicorn, and this year, I asked my daughter to draw her favorite thing, a rainbow, and then she added the (misspelled) words herself.
Next, I upload a JPEG of the artwork to Vistaprint or Shutterfly. I have used both, and both are quite easy. You also can use Costco, or even CVS photo.
The final step is sitting down with your children and asking them to dictate what they want to say in the note. With my daughter, she said, “Turning 4 was the best day of my life.” I cleaned it up a bit, added some additional text and clicked “Order.”
My customized thank-you notes were 30 cards for $18.98 ($6.99 of which was shipping and handling) including the envelopes, and they arrived at my doorstep five days later. The next part of the fun – and responsibility – was that she spent an entire Saturday afternoon handwriting her initial on each one, and then stuffing the envelopes, sealing them and adding the stamp.
The project took us a few days to finish, but the results reflect our gratitude for the thoughtfulness of all of the people in our lives. The feedback from friends and family has been great, and I think my child’s spirit really shines through. She is really proud of having contributed to the entire project.
You can adjust this project to match the age of your child, using a simple handprint or fingerprint for younger kids, or, as one brilliant friend recently did, printing an outline of, say, a train, and allowing your child to color/scribble in the picture before mailing the note. Using an app like TurboScan or a home scanner makes converting the image to a JPEG quite easy.
Raising grateful children is not easy, but this is one step of the process. Whatever thank-you note tradition you employ, be it a texted photo or an elaborate note, teaching your children the art of gratitude starts early.
Sarah Morford is a former Mountain View resident. To read more of her parenting experiences and advice, visit whininganddiningblog.com.