Birthday Letters

I woke up early yesterday because I was so excited.  It was just about all I could think about all day long.  After nine years, the day was finally here.

When my two older children were still little, I had been trying to think of something special to do for them as they’d be growing up, something to help them know me and my love for them better, something permanent and unique.  I hit upon the idea of writing each of them a letter on every birthday and sealing it up, then giving it to them several years later, starting on their 12th birthdays, when I figured they’d be old enough to appreciate it and starting that stage of life when special attention would be very helpful. 

The letters would contain stories of what my children were like as I was then writing, as well as advice, hopes, observations, and my witness of Jesus Christ.   A few times, when I’ve felt so prompted, I’ve written extra letters, or even letters meant for multiple children.  In recent years, I’ve started including copies of stories, poems, essays, or sermons that I want them to read.  I’ve continued writing these letters for every child on every birthday and dating the envelopes about ten years in the future (twelve for my younger children, who’ve obviously been getting letters written since they were born). 

And yesterday my oldest daughter turned twelve.

Last night, after all the presents and treats, I pulled her aside and showed her the stack of letters, and explained the project.  I gave her the one on top, labelled “March 4, 2009,” and asked her only to keep it somewhere safe, as it’s irreplaceable.  She seemed impressed that the letters she’d be getting throughout her teenage years were already written, and found it funny that I’d be writing another one now that she wouldn’t see until she is in her 20’s. 

I don’t know now exactly how I wanted this first presentation to go, so it’s just as well that her reaction was, “This is like something someone would do when they’re dying,” and then she told me all about this book she’d read about a dying woman who bought birthday presents for her daughter to be given throughout the daughter’s life, presents that turned out to be eerily appropriate every year.

And as I do this for my kids, I can’t deny that I have that idea, too.  Hopefully, they’ll each get to open some of these and read something that I wrote them a decade before that will speak to them perfectly, telling them just what they need to hear that day.  That, or I at least hope they think the jokes are still funny.

5 comments on “Birthday Letters

  1. Wonderful idea. I suppose you mentioned her reaction in the letter you wrote this year — I wonder how her reactions will have changed by the time she reads that one.

  2. Ardis, I just hope it doesn’t all backfire: that I wrote something that in hindsight will prove to be embarassing or counter productive, something that will spark bad memories for my kids or that will sour them on the kinds of things I hope to promote.

    Now that one of the letters is out, I’ve been tempted to open and review the other letters for editing before I present them…but that seems paranoid. Paranoid and faithless. So, here’s to miracles and faulty memories!

  3. I think your “Birthday Letter to me was an inspiration… I have notebooks and journals documenting my pregnancy and Chloe’s first years lol. She’ll be five in November but i find myself CONSTANTLY writing to her future self

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