Leaving notes

Every once in a while, I come across an idea that makes me wish I could go back and start parenting all over again. (Like those wonderful yearly photos of your children in the same spot? Or monthly in the same shirt? I missed the boat on that 19 years ago. Sigh.) An archived article in Esopus Magazine had me wishing for a parenting time machine. According to the website, "exhibition designer Robert Guest has been getting up at dawn every school day for the past 15 years to write a note to each of his two children, Joanna and Theo. Included in Esopus 10 is a sampling of the thousands of letters written by Guest and collected by his wife, Gloria, from lunchboxes and laundry piles." Here's the text from one of them (above left):

"The world Joanna--you can't imagine how beautiful it really is. Think of the different places--tropical islands, snow-capped mountains, deserts of sand, miles and miles of green fields. It's awesome! Think of the kinds of weather--bitter cold - blinding sun - stormy wind and rain - cool breezes - warm winds. It's awesome! Think of the people in the world --black & brown, yellow and red, and white - old, young and babies of each. It's awesome! And just think. You get to be here in the middle of it all. So what do you do? You smile, you say "thanks" and you live! Love, Dad"

What I love about these is that they aren't just about his love for the children (which of course is important) but it's also about sharing his thoughts and perspectives about the world and life. (In a similar vein, this week Maria Popova shared poignant notes of motherly wisdom from notable mothers on her site Brain Pickings.)

Luckily, it's not too late for us to write something, even if it's not the fantastic, letter-a-day idea. Maybe a yearly birthday letter for starters. Or a well-placed post-it every Monday morning. Or a weekly letter mailed to your college student (or grandkids!). Or a running journal, just for that child, to be given at some future date. Just start where you are and go from there. Still, there's something magnificent to admire in the consistency and longevity of 15 years of daily letters.

In an age of wireless, intangible, in-the-cloud technology, I think writing it down--on paper, in handwriting--has power and longevity, more than the earnest lectures on responsibility (or does that just seem to be my go-to lecture?) or any shiny new gadget. Those tucked messages to our kids eventually nestle in pockets and fists and musty shoeboxes carried from home to apartment and home again to be pulled out, uncreased, and remembered, long outlasting their author. I know because I have a box of them myself. Treasures (or tray-sures, as they say in my hometown).