Dear Grandma & Grandpa,
Thank you for the Christmas stuff. I liked it.
“Hey Mom, what else I gotta write?”
Sound familiar? And exactly how much nagging and cajoling did you have to do to get your little darling to sit down and write that much? Was it followed up with something that sounded like this?
“Why can’t I just send Auntie Rose a text?”
“Because Auntie Rose doesn’t text. Sit down and write her a proper thank-you note.”
“How come? I told her I liked it at Christmas. Besides, I don’t really know how to write letters. We don’t do cursive or anything.”
“I don’t care if you print in crayon, you’re writing a thank you!”
“Can I post it on Facebook?”
(Silence. Followed by “the look.”)
A month or more ago, a letter appeared in one of The Sun’s nationally syndicated advice columns about kids not writing thank-you notes today. The Grandma who wrote it said she’s thinking of buying note cards and including them when she sends her next gift. To my horror, the syndicated advice columnist pronounced this a great idea. I am pronouncing it exactly the wrong thing to do. It teaches the child nothing whatsoever except that someone will always be there to do things for them. It’s not the grandchildren’s fault at all, it’s grandma and grandpa’s children’s fault ... the parents of their grandchildren ... because they are not teaching their children simple manners. Thanking someone for their generosity should never be a chore, but a habit taught from an early age. The child should be made to understand that Grandma or Uncle or the next-door neighbor took money they had saved to buy you a birthday, holiday, or other occasion present, and that’s what makes it important and special.
My idea to that advice columnist and the grandma who wrote to her would be that the parent(s) should do what their title implies: they should “parent” the child. Here’s an idea. When that child is barely in kindergarten take them shopping and let THEM pick out their own stationery with butterflies or Snoopy or Spiderman on it. That will make writing a note on that paper or card that much more special to the child, and they will be more apt to want to do so because it’s their own personal stationery. As they get older perhaps a pad of paper with their name personalized on it (we’re not talking Crane’s finest card stock here) might be something that motivates them, but THEY need to pick it out and design it, NOT YOU! Then they have to fill it with words. Their words.
Hallmark has actually tried to make it easy for the little ingrates. They have fill-in-the-blank thank-yous all pre-printed. All the cherubs have to do is fill in Grandma, Uncle Joe, Mrs. Beasley. Next they write what they got, i.e. Lego set, clothes, name of toy. Finally, sign their name. In my book that’s cheating! Makes it too easy for these already-soft kids. It’s also cheating to take a selfie holding up a “Thank You” sign. Besides, what if you can’t forward it to Grandma’s phone because she doesn’t have one?
So much of this malaise comes from the fact that kids just have too much these days, and they’re used to getting more. They expect more. Years ago when a child sat on Santa’s knee they asked for a doll, a toy truck, perhaps a bike or sled, and some candy. This year I heard a radio program where kids spoke to Santa giving him their list. The blueprint for Obamacare had fewer line items. Not just were items mentioned, they were mentioned by brand name like iPhone 13 (God forbid, not a 12) and Forza Horizon 5 Xbox series video game. How about this year, YOU write the letter first?
Dear Grandchild or Little Friend or Grand Niece,
I hope you enjoy this. You won’t understand for another 55 or 60 years, but I am on Social Security and a fixed income. I wanted to get you something special, and this is what I could afford this year. But it is you who are special to me as I hope I am to you. So just let me know you got it and you like it, and the next time I see you, tell me what fun you’ve had playing with it.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 20 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-539-7762.