As I spent 30 minutes arguing my son into his room last night, and stood standing over him as he begrudgingly sat to write (merely) eight thank you notes for his 9th birthday party, I thought, “Is this really worth it?” Perhaps I should just “Join ‘em if I can’t beat ‘em”. Should I just give up? Maybe the thank you note is dead? Maybe I should just send a quick email to the moms of the party guests: “Jack just loves the: football jersey, Under Armour football gloves, Pokeman cards, etc. So glad your son could join us at laser tag!” and call it a day. It would be quicker and I sure could use this half hour back…
And then I thought, “No, this is about more than a piece of paper or even a social convention that seems to be on the way out. It’s about MANNERS, and I just don’t think that good manners will ever die. When I was a little girl, the small acts of social graces, like knowing how to write a thank you note were what my mother called “good breeding,” (which I haven’t heard anyone say in ages, and doesn’t sound quite right any longer.) But the sentiment is still relevant. What she meant, is that I was being raised to have good manners.
These days, with instant communication and snapchat and Instagram and no time ever and “busyness”, combined with political correctness and changing social conventions, there are fewer ways to express good manners. Politically, it seems to me that it is almost cool to not bow to conventions like writing notes, in the younger generation. “Anything goes” to the point that if you don't espouse that very philosophy you are either not politically correct, or else stuck in the past.
So few things are left that once can safely do, that show good manners, and a good old-fashioned pen and paper thank you note is one of them. Writing a note is not polarizing or political (even a man paying for dinner or holding a door can be interpreted in different ways these days). A thank you note is a safe way to show that you care, that you took the time, that you are brought up to know the right thing to do. And I hope these small signs of good manners, taking one’s own time and a postage stamp to express thanks, never dies. I think as long as we keep raising our children to be “polite”, in whatever iteration of that phrase is culturally acceptable at the time, thank you notes will always have a place. I just can't imagine someone complaining that it is sexiest or politically incorrect to mail a note of thanks.
So, I make sure my sons and daughter have a set of stationery with their name on it, that they choose and help pick out the design, that they know where their own supply of cards and envelopes are, safely in a drawer in their room, I give them easy access to pens and stamps, and I teach them the rules. A gift = a note. If anyone tells me I am old-fashioned in this way, I say yes to being “retro” if it shows that manners still matter. Here are a few of my favorite note cards for myself and my children.