Old Fashioned Gratitude

In light of fact it’s a cold, wet morning, the children cannot find an excuse to avoid the thank you letters I have been nagging them to write. I tell myself that it’s important to encourage the children to write thank you letters for it demonstrates a tangible and lasting gratitude and it gives them rare opportunity to actually get pen and paper out and give the poor struggling post offices something to do. I tell my children that if they don’t write thank you letters to assorted generous aunts and great aunts, they won’t be getting the 10, 20 or (in exceptionally rare and happy moments) 30 quid they got this time the next time they visit family in England. Idealism may justify parental tactics but nothing like cold hard money talk to get the kids motivated. They’re all scribbling away as I type.

It occurs to me as I watch them (the girls decorating their epistles with colourful gel pens, drawing flowery scrolls and smiley faces, Ben battling to get a single word down and finding endless excuses to procrastinate: washing his hands, going for a pee, needing a drink of water before he begins) that writing a letter to Father Christmas was never this hard. No, those were written at length, with alacrity (long before Christmas, probably because my kids wised up to the fact the Father Christmas they knew had pretty poor time management skills and needed as much advance warning as was possible, especially given fact that even though he apparently lived in the Northern Hemisphere, he clearly did all his shopping for their stockings in Shoprite in Arusha) and with no encouragement at all. Letters to Father Christmas were written in beautiful English, with no spelling mistakes. They were written in silence, erasers at the ready. There was no faffing about, and no fighting. They bore detailed descriptions about precisely what it was they wanted and where to get it from (usually not Shoprite in Arusha). They often ran to several pages, despite my urgent warnings that it was important not to appear greedy. Letters to Father Christmas may have spelt out – with exaggerated courtesy – the desire for a mobile phone, in a particular colour, by Nokia, model number included.I suppose because the kids hoped that cell phone ownership might mean they could duck the whole thank-you letter thing because it’d afford opportunity to send aunts and great aunts quick text that read,

Thx v v much 4 £10. C u nxt time Lol ben.

Too bad Father Christmas never obliged then.

4 Responses to “Old Fashioned Gratitude”

  1. Roberta Says:

    Well…I’ve tried that with my boys. Horsewhip in hand and I even furnished paper and pen. They have to be truly grateful, is the key. I’ve kept the notes they’ve written to me. Here is one.

    From Max:

    I’m sure you know how much I regret not coming along with you to see the girls and all the other amazing sights. Just know that I regret having responsibilities here, and that I love you.

    I hope this book makes for an adequate subtitute for my shining intellect. enjoy. (I hope you haven’t read it!)

    Happy Birthday
    Much Love,

    Yes. I keep everything.

  2. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Great Roberta. I read my eldest daughter’s thank you to a generous sort of surrogate great grandmother, ‘thank you very much for the money, I spent it on books’. Books? You didn’t spend it on books, I said. ‘I know’, she replied, ‘but it’s what grannies like to hear’. Clever girl. Thank you letters and savvy – if faux – purchases.

  3. R. Sherman Says:

    Good for you to require thank-you notes. That small show of politeness is almost extinct in the younger generations, I think.


  4. Carolyn Says:

    How lovely. And I am in hysterics over what grannies like to hear. Very clever girl indeed!

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