4 Jun
2014
Posted in: parenting
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Birthday Letters to My Children

I know my memories will fade over time, and my children’s pasts will warp and blend together.

There will come a time when I wonder if it was J or A who liked shoes lined up just so. Or was it C who couldn’t stand to drink bottled water?

My fear of a failing memory combined with the kiddos not remembering their early years led to me writing birthday letters to each child near their birthday. The letters aren’t essays or novels. I keep them to one handwritten page, front and back.

Daughter blowing out four birthday candles

I attempt to catch the essence of the child in writing the birthday letters. I write about friends and activities. I list likes and dislikes. I’ll tell a poignant story from the previous year. I write down their greatest fears. Their triumphs — from learning to walk, to riding bicycles without training wheels, to graduating from elementary school — are all chronicled.

Middle son getting ready to blow out birthday candles

The finished letters are placed in a white business envelope with the child’s name, the date and their age printed on the outside. I don’t seal the letters when they’re tucked away in a box. Each year when I write the newest installment, I open a few of the past letters. Even now, there are things in the birthday letters I’ve forgotten. The words bring back vivid images of toddlers who have grown into able-bodied people. I become teary-eyed as I meander down memory lane, but I also can’t help smiling with a bursting heart.

Youngest son blowing out (trick) birthday candles

Our third and youngest son turned seven in May. Occasionally, I’ll begin to write a birthday letter and my emotions spiral away. That’s happened twice with my letter for C. I actually enjoy that emotional tidal wave. I look forward to penning the letters and being swept away by a year’s worth of memories. C’s letter is on the top of my to-do list for tomorrow.

One day the kiddos will want to read the letters themselves. I have no “not until your 18” rule. They’re free to read them at will. No one has asked yet to pull out their birthday letters and glimpse the past. Someday someone will ask, and I’ll be overjoyed to share who he/she was. It will be a nice reminder for me too.

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