I recently read a beautiful letter a mother wrote for her daughter’s sixteenth birthday. It was moving and soul bearing and tender, fun and funny. There was a lot of special love between that mom and her girl-I could tell.
I’m a big fan of not leaving things unsaid and legacy building. This letter accomplished both. The mother left no doubt about how she felt about her daughter and she created a piece of family history for her daughter and generations to come.
In this letter, the mom shared stories about what life was like when she was expecting her little girl, details about the pregnancy, what it was like being a mommy to this new baby, and many other wonderful details about this little girl’s life and her family. Details she may have never known about had her mother not taken the time to document them.
The woman who wrote this letter shared with me that many of their friends who have read this letter have been touched by the words and the gesture, and want to know how to go about writing a letter for their children. Though the woman did a beautiful job on her letter, she doesn’t consider herself much of a writer, and she said neither do many of her friends who read the letter. “They don’t know where to start or what to say.” Well, to borrow from The Sound of Music, “Start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.”
Start with the facts:
Share details about your marriage-how you met, wedding date, place, ceremony details
When/how you found out you were expecting
Whether the pregnancy was expected
What the pregnancy was like
Whether or not you knew your baby’s gender before birth
Details about getting the nursery ready
Registering for your baby gifts/the baby shower(s)
Thoughts and feelings about becoming a mom or dad
Family’s reaction to the news of the pregnancy
Details about date of birth: hospital, length of labor, tell about the weather, what was going on in the world that day, who came to visit, who held baby first, going home from the hospital
Baby’s first week, months, years: talk about anything that comes to mind
Childhood: where you lived, who their friends were/are, sport activities
Words your child pronounced in a special way that always made you smile or laugh
Get creative…you can cover a lot in this section. Feel free to get the baby book out. (Hopefully you got farther along in the documenting than I did.)
Everyone loves a story-especially about him or herself. This past summer I spent a week with my aunts at the lake and just two weeks ago, the better part of a week in a hospital room with my grandparents and several family members. Listening to story after story from aunts, uncles, cousins and my grandparents was wonderful. No matter how insignificant the story or detail may seem to you, it may not be to the person hearing the story. My late 91-year-old Grandpa told me this past Thanksgiving that he deeply regretted not asking his parents more questions. There are so many things he wished he had answers to.
Share memories: Think about some special traditions, jokes, sayings and memories that mean a lot to you and then write them down.
Share your feelings: This is a big one. Don’t ever let your son or daughter question how you felt about them. Tell them and tell them (and show) often. It doesn’t have to be fancy or poetic, just speak from the heart.
What do you love most about them? I love watching my son experience things for the first time. His eyes dance when he laughs and he has the cutest little boy laugh. I love staring at his freckles and eye lashes. I love how my daughter is so comfortable in her own skin and so loyal to those she loves. I love her freckles, too. I always tell my kids “I love you to the moon and back, infinity”. These are things you want to write down so one day when they are away at college or newly married, or when you’re gone…they will have this letter to read when they are missing you and your words and feelings of love for them will come back and fill them up, just like when they were kids.
Impart life lessons and values: Have you learned an important lesson or have some special wisdom or values you want to pass on to your child, or be remembered by? Include them here.
Tie it together: Now that you have some facts, anecdotes, memories, feelings and lessons, tie everything together in a story. Start from the beginning and add in the details.
Not much of a writer? Don’t let that discourage you. Use your own voice and keep writing and polishing until it sounds good to you. The thought, effort and time you put into your letter is the gift. A gift that will be prized above all others.
My daughter, Grace, will be 16 on April 22nd. Come back to the Whatever Girls that day to read my letter to Grace.
This article is dedicated to Kristin and Rylee.