In recent months, my 7-year-old daughter has developed a curious habit of communicating with my husband and me via missive.
At times, this has proven to be a rewarding experience, such as a couple of weeks ago when I discovered this note from Georgia, decorated with drawings of flowers and stars, buried beneath my bedcovers:
“Dear MommyI love you and please tell daddy I will miss himLoveGeorgia”
Jeff was going on a trip, and Georgia was already pining for him. But I decided to take the bubble letter extras she had added to the page — including, “You Rock!” and “You Are The Best!”—as directed toward me.
Encountering this short letter among my sheets that morning gave me a shimmery feeling, inspiring me to share Georgia’s love via text with my husband later that day.
As pleasing as it was, however, this communication was not nearly as delightful as a card Georgia left last summer folded between the pages of my old copy of “War and Peace,” a tattered tome that had been lying on my bedside table for the past several months — and actually still is.
Despite its awkward syntax, run-on sentences and misplaced capitals or lack thereof, I found my daughter’s epistle much easier to digest than Tolstoy’s eloquently sprawling novel.
“dear mommy + daddy,” Georgia’s letter read. “Thank you for paying the money so we could go to new hamphsire also thank you for driving the car daddy and For being the best parents Ever!”
Then Georgia had added some leftover Valentine’s Day heart stickers, as well as some teacher stamps, including “Super Job!” and “Excellent!”
“Wow,” Jeff said, when I showed him the card. “That’s really cool.”
If I recall correctly, my husband even clutched his chest, as if his heart was so full it ached.
I, too, felt like we had just won the Parents of the Year Sweepstakes. Our daughter was so appreciative, so polite. And it was all our doing.
So imagine my thrill when this trend continued, and Georgia left me several weeks later a page adorned with hearts, a “thank you” sticker she had peeled off of a case of toilet paper (the kind of sticker that indicates you’ve paid), and the note, “dear mommy thank you for the kids dictonary.”
I was so overwhelmed by Georgia’s expression of gratitude that I didn’t even mind that she had been too lazy to test run her new resource—or even examine its cover—to find out how the word, “dictionary,” was actually spelled.
It was the sentiment that mattered. I really had, I decided, trained this kid well. And so I stowed her note along with the others in a special box for safekeeping, a sacred stash I was starting to peruse from time to time, whenever I felt down.
But as I was busy congratulating myself on Georgia’s appreciative nature, her ability to express her feelings in writing, her recognition that it was important to acknowledge the sacrifices of others, I started to notice a disturbing trend. My daughter was beginning to direct more and more of her loving letters to her father, and I was starting to get only the complaining ones.
“I need HELP NOW!!!” Georgia wrote on a slip of paper that she slid under my door when she was supposed to be in her room, thinking about her refusal even to try to put on her stubborn soccer socks all by herself.
A few days later, Georgia informed me, via another missive, that her 4-year-old sister had gotten “really mad” at her. “PS,” my older daughter added, “I think Jane needs a N-A-P.”
Like she did with the previous memo, Georgia shot this communication under the door to my bedroom, where I had temporarily barricaded myself for some peace and quiet and where I was disturbed to receive this unwanted dispatch from the outside.
To my further dismay, when a week or so later I spent 27 precious minutes scribing Georgia a loving response to another one of her notes, using her multi-colored pencils to give each letter its own hue, my daughter wrote back a terse, “pleas do not EVER use my pencils unles you ask me.”
What I was beginning to find even more irksome was the fact that Georgia had started leaving my husband elaborate letters in which she tumbled over herself to compliment him. “Dear Daddy,” read one. “On a scale from 1-10 about how good a daddy are you I’d give it a 10! You are the best dad I could ever ask for…thank you for being the best dad in the universe. I LOVE YOU. Here’s your plack and ribbon.”
There followed Georgia’s drawing of a plaque reading, “The best dad award goes to Jeff Bond” and a ribbon bearing the emblem, “#1 dad!”
On another page, Georgia penned a touching picture of herself and her father holding hands and the words, “dear daddy I LOVE you! This is for you!”
And when Jeff returned from a football-spectating trip with college buddies, Georgia spent at least one full hour of his four-day absence — an absence during which I tended to our three children, making meals, doing laundry and breaking up fights — a giant “WELCOME HOME FROM TENESEE” [sic] sign that she taped to our front door.
Truthfully, I do not begrudge my husband our daughter’s affections. I know at Georgia’s age, girls usually develop passing crushes on their fathers as part of their normal development. Plus, her twin brother, as is a boy’s want from about 5 to 7, tends to favor his mother. Griffin just isn’t very literary about it.
But despite my rational overview of the situation — and even though I’ve developed a pretty tough hide through seven years of caring for three children — I must confess that my ire rose near the boiling point when I stepped into the kitchen the other morning and discovered the following note:
“To mommy,” Georgia had written and then crossed out, on second thought. “To daddy,” it now read. “happy any day!”
“Georgia left you another card!” I hollered loudly enough to wake my slumbering husband, deciding that he could digest his daughter’s loving message along with the breakfast he was about to be making his children.