friendship

The simple thing I started doing that changed my relationship with my kids.

Sometimes it’s the little things that change everything.

I blame my husband. He started them thinking about the notes.

One afternoon my four year old girl asked why I hadn’t put a note in her lunch.

“What?”

“Daddy puts notes in our lunch.”

He’d been leaving notes on napkins when making their lunches in the morning: Have a great day. I love you. Love, daddy.

When I make them the night before school – no notes.

One morning our six-year-old forgot her lunch at home, so my husband ran it over to school on his way to work. When I took out the half-eaten contents later that day, I found a note that read: Sorry I forgot your lunch. I love you, Daddy.

And the six year old wrote back to him on a corner of the original note: Thank you.

That note is pinned to the bulletin board above my laptop still.

The six year old often leaves me notes, as well as questionnaires. When we fight at bedtime, she comes out with a piece of paper, at the bottom for me to circle are the words, Yes and No. In misspelled children’s language reads: Mommy, circle one if you will ever leave us. 

I have tucked among the many books next to my bed a recent note she wrote me after we discussed one weekend what it will mean when she goes to college: I love you mommy. I like every thing you do. I will or might stay nearby or not when I grow up.

Then one night after a particularly difficult bedtime during which I screamed and threatened and cursed, and they cried and laughed at me and cried some more, I was feeling horrendous and guilty and ashamed. I wanted to tell them how sorry I was we fought at bedtime.

I left them notes at the table for the next morning. The younger two can’t read, so the six year old read the notes to them. Each one gets his or her own short message: I love all the questions you ask me, and how you know so many things. Love, Mommy.

“Look Mommy left us notes!” I heard them scream the first few times they saw their names on folded paper by their chairs at breakfast.

And when I don’t, my son comes into my room, “Mommy, did you forget to leave us a note?” (Yes, sometimes I do forget.)

Notes have become what we do for each other. The younger girl did her best to sound out her way to an apology note this weekend: Daddy, on one side; Mommy, on the other. I’m sorry for being mean to you.

Our evenings are often hard as we squeeze in dinner and baths and homework and bedtime in a few hours. There is no way to undo the chaos once they are in bed and asleep, yet I spend much of the night wishing I could. These little messages, and the generous nature of mornings, give us all permission to begin again.

What is the one habit you have started with your children to heal the dramas of the day?