• 34°

Little notes let kids know you love them

By DAVID WHITLOCK

Religion columnist

From my first day of school, when I reluctantly let go of my mother’s hand to take the hand of my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Speck, to the day when I hoped no one would detect the nervousness in my voice as I stood to defend my doctoral dissertation, school has been a process of letting go of the familiar to grasp the unfamiliar.

And sometimes that can be a frightening experience.

Remember that, not just when it’s your child’s first day of school, but also when they move from one grade to next, or wave bye to you on their way to college. They are more than likely just as anxious — even if they try and hide it — as you are sad, or happy, or a bit on edge for them.

May I offer you some encouragement?

Each one of those days, some more difficult, some easier, than others, will build on the next, and the next, to make a life. Your simple words, or physical presence with your children, can make a difference between them giving up, or staying with it.

I don’t know exactly when I started doing it, but somewhere along the line, early on, I began writing little notes to each one of my children, slipping hand-written words of encouragement into their backpacks, or later, on the steering wheel or console of their automobile. I’ve even taped notes on the gas cap of their car, after I gave them gas money.

Those little notes were usually nothing profound, although on occasion I would include some wise quote from someone, and frequently, I would include a word from the Bible that was appropriate for whatever circumstance they might be facing that day. But most of the time, it was just a one- or two-sentence note to remind them I was thinking about them that day. They were simple notes like, “Praying for you as you take that geometry test today,” or “I’ll be there tonight for your game,” or “You are a champion, you’ll do fine.”

I wasn’t even sure if they always read them.

When I married Lori, my notes grew from two children to four, but I stayed with that little habit, each morning.

I don’t know why, but I was surprised when my kids, once grown up, told me, on different occasions, how much those little notes meant to them. Some even kept the notes tucked away in a box, or drawer, and if they didn’t keep them, they at least hid some of those thoughts in their heart.

I wasn’t necessarily trying to write something they would always remember, like a quote from “my dad the preacher, the teacher.”

I just wanted to provide them with something like a little oasis of positivity in a desert of negativity. Proverbs 18:4 says, “A person’s words can be life-giving water…”

We are to provide a cup of water for those in need, aren’t we? A little note can be a cup of inspiration.

And unless you want to use fancy paper, your little notes don’t need to cost anything.

The 17th century mathematician, inventor, and theologian, Blaise Pascal, reminds us, “Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.” Your words can be powerful – for good or bad.

Okay, so you aren’t one to put pen to paper?

Don’t let that hold you back. Think of some way to get “a cup of encouragement” to that child. A text message? An email? A voice message? Some symbol or reminder of good to them?

The point is, let your children know you care, regardless of how well or poorly they are doing in school.

Try and be fairly consistent. An encouraging message once or twice a year is wonderful, but a daily dose of honey is better than one meal a year.

Words, even little notes, can steady children on their journey as they let go of the people and places they know, and step into the territory they don’t.