Do you ever take walks with your child? How about a walk to the mailbox? Due increased use of email, chances are you have done more of the former than the latter. However, if by some great stroke of luck you had the fortune of walking with a toddler to the mailbox, you may have experienced the very event that changed my life forever.
Things Would Never Be The Same
One afternoon, in the late spring of 1998, my then two-year old son met me at the door. I was on my way to the mailbox and he wanted to walk across the street with me to get the mail. As was our routine, we would walk and talk about anything on his mind.
Our conversations would include him asking a rapid succession of questions followed by me trying to answer as quickly as possible before he could retort “Why Daddy?”
However, on this particular day when we reached the mailbox, having already been exasperated from his prosecutorial line of questioning, my son asked me something that he had never before asked: “Daddy, where is my mail?” I stood silently for a moment realizing that my pint-sized prosecutor was not really making an inquiry as much as he was making a request.
I replied “Naeem, I can promise you, I don’t even want my mail.” Unmoved by my response, my son uttered once more as if to make sure I didn’t misunderstand him the first time, “Daddy, where is my mail?”
You’ve Got Mail!
Having no problem hearing and being adept at non-verbal communication, I went to the local Target to buy several greeting cards. My plan was to mail the cards to Naeem intermittently over the course of several weeks. As I started to sign the cards in the typical fashion parents do – “Love Dad” – I felt melancholy.
My son, my only son, the little guy who I professed to love more than life itself wanted mail and the best I could do was purchase a bunch of mass-produced, impersonal greeting cards.
I signed the cards “Love Dad” but I wrote a whole lot more in those cards. I personalized the card as much as possible. In each card, I followed a similar script. I professed my undying love and devotion, expressed my hopes and plans for his bright future and committed to always being there for him.
A New Tradition Is Born
When the cards arrived, several unexpected things occurred. If you guessed that he wanted more mail with money in the envelopes the next time you would be correct. Personalizing those initial cards not only brought out the capitalist in him, but they had inspired him to want to read. By age four, he was reading beyond a first grade level and by the first grade he was reading beyond the sixth grade level.
Over the years, I have continued to write him and I imagine that I always will. I’m convinced writing him transformed not only his life but mine as well. Had I not written him, there is little chance that I would be the author of a book and a blog today.
Writing my son has made our relationship stronger. Writing him has made us both better men. I believe writing a child gives a parent a unique opportunity to contemplate what we want and need to say before it is said. Writing a child provides parents with an opportunity to look inward before acting outward. In other words, writing provides us with a filter that can help us refrain from saying something we wish we could take back but can’t. Writing challenges us to look at the person in the mirror with the same scrutinizing gaze given to our children.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
Parents must remember that words have great power and that we have the responsibility to use words wisely. Whenever possible parents should take the time to write your children. Write your child when they make you happy. Write your child when they make you sad. Write your child when their spirits are buoyant. Write your child when their spirits are low. Whatever you do, whatever the circumstance, whatever the event…write your child.
Most of us will not leave great wealth and riches for our children but we can create a relational legacy that lasts forever. Writing our children is a way we can all contribute to our children and children’s children long after we have departed from this earth.
Rich or poor, all children face similar challenges and opportunities. While the challenges and opportunities escalate in size as we grow and age, the nature of those challenges and opportunities are the same. Challenges and opportunities are relative. More often than not something that you write today will provide a lesson and equip your child to be able to deal with a future challenge or opportunity. The scale of those challenges and opportunities has minor significance. If your child is ill-equipped for the small ones, chances are they will be ill-equipped for the larger ones. If your child is unprepared today, in all likelihood they will be unprepared tomorrow.
The road or path your child takes may very well be determined by your words so write them. Write your children so that they have a map, an instructional manual, a recorded history that empowers them to become what you desire of them and what the universe needs from them – to be responsible children, who have no doubt about how much they are loved and who use their time and energy wisely to become great citizens.
Originally Published on The RS Project