Raising My Twins

It's what's on my mind.

My Kids Won’t Have Boxes of Letters…Unless I Write Some

on April 16, 2012

Old letters and cards from my family and friends.

In my endless quest to clean out the garage, I occasionally stop by the big box of letters and pictures and purge a few. This is a hard job, because of course they are sentimental things, and each one needs to be examined individually and decided on.

I’ve found that lately, it’s even harder to approach this box, because as I go through it—through all the letters written to me when I was away at school—I realize that my kids will likely not have a box of letters and cards at all. My niece who is going to college this year might not even receive very many letters.

What’s worse, people routinely wish others “Happy Birthday” on Facebook, rather than mail a card. I did receive 8 birthday cards this year, which is still pretty good these days, but the “art” of actual letter writing has all but died.

Every once in a great while, I’ll send a letter to a good friend, and I will certainly write to my niece when she goes to school, just so she can receive some fun mail (and care packages). But more and more, the norm has become, from least to most personal: Facebook communication, text message, email, phone call (rare too), and Skype. Don’t get me wrong—Skype is amazing and cool, and I make happy use of it so my far-away family can visit with the babies, but there is no permanent keepsake from a Skype communication. I hear one can use a third-party software to record a Skype call (more info here) but then you could have an over-storage problem: most of us would be unwilling to purge even not-so-exciting calls, and then there will be too many in our archives to make it anything less than painful for our family members to wade through when we are gone.

The babies cutely run to the computer and look expectantly at the screen when I dial out on Skype (and then cry if nobody picks up), and it’s so obvious how technology-driven their lives will be. But even though we try to save some emails, because they are particularly special (and we can search and find them quickly), there probably isn’t going to be a lot of people archiving their personal emails digitally for their progeny. And even if some people did, the likelihood that their kids or grandkids would sit down and browse said emails is pretty low. For one thing, there would probably be too many to go through (where do you start?) because it’s just too easy to save digital stuff, making the potential “reward” for browsing through them low, but additionally, it’s just not as snuggly to curl up with one’s computer (even an iPad…sorry) and “click” to open file after file, rather than riffling through colorful papers with people’s personal handwriting on them.

And I think we all have this dilemma with our digital pictures now. It’s so wonderful to be able to take a lot of shots, as we don’t have to pay for printing, but somehow even the bad shots are still just a little too precious to simply delete much of the time, so mass purging and cataloging simply does not happen. Which will make our future archives completely unwieldy. Mine already is. And it’s not properly cataloged and tagged. I keep telling myself I’ll do it someday, but will I? I have over 16,400 photos in my iPhoto library, and those only date back to January 2010!

I mentioned the letters thing to my good friend and she said that we should make sure we teach the etiquette and custom of letter-writing to our kids, so that it stays in tact, at least in their lives, but I actually even wonder if the post office will stay functioning as it is now—cheaply, daily except Sundays, and efficiently—for very long. I think there is a slow death of paper communication happening, and while that’s great for the trees, it seems bad for our personal histories, and maybe even for the long-term health of polite society. Electronic communications are notoriously unfussy (read: spelling and punctuation are rarely given much attention) which means that the standards of communication have already gone down. Think of the Facebook birthday wish. We settle for a less personal experience because that’s just the way things are now. But these changes will likely keep degrading toward the less personal and let’s face it, less courteous.

Will my kids live and work in electronically-wired pods, with little personal interaction? Maybe not. But they probably won’t have a box of sentimental letters to wade through someday either. Unless I furnish one.

I keep a journal to record really great, everyday moments with the babies, partly because the regimentation of the baby books is off-putting—feels like a chore—but also because my personal observations on a given day are so much more intimate than checking off the lists, so to speak, in the books. (Could it be that I’m making myself feel better right now because their books are 95% empty?)

Anyway, I got the idea to write letters to my girls—for them to read in the future. I haven’t finalized the structure of this yet, but I thought it might be fun to “muse ahead,” so that now, while we near their second birthday, I could write a letter to each of them 10 years ahead—intended for them to read when they are 12. I could wax theoretical about what interests I think they’ll have based on how they stack blocks now, and what concerns I have about the future they will inhabit. So it’s me, dreaming, but from my current parenting and cultural vantage. I think it would be fun for them to read these, and fun for me too, as my outlook and style, as well as my concerns and hopes, are likely to morph quite a bit over time. And not to be a downer, but if something were to happen to me sometime along the way, they’d still have letters from me to look forward to for a little while.

I think doing this would be the easiest, most fun way to impress upon them the unique value of letters and letter-writing. They are likely to want to do the same thing for their kids…and the post office won’t even factor in.


6 responses to “My Kids Won’t Have Boxes of Letters…Unless I Write Some

  1. cynthia says:

    Looking at the photo of handwriting made me cry. I miss Grammy. She was the absolute BEST letter writer in the world — and I didn’t appreciate it growing up as I do now.

  2. My oldest writes letter to her Grandma that we save and her grandma saves. I am sure they will be hers one day. I also have a journal for each one of my kids I occasionally write something to them in it. I don’t know when I will give it to them. I love it though. I put scraps in it too. They aren’t crafty and they are simple, but they holds many thoughts, wishes, prayers, and memories.

  3. My kids get letters from their great grandma that they keep. Other than that though, the letters have stopped coming. Everything is emailed. I still have a briefcase full of my old letters.

    • Janet S says:

      Yes, it’s even harder to let go of them now that they are so rare…and I’m sad for my girls that they won’t have the unique pleasure of having to wait for mail. 🙂

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