My kids are polite. They say “thank you” and “please” without prompting. They are considerate. They share. My older one voluntarily gives part of her allowance each week to help kids who “don’t have as many toys as I do.” They are good, grateful kids.
But they don’t write thank you notes, because I’ve never asked them to. And I don’t usually send them out on their behalf.
This is a very unpopular opinion, I know. And it’s not a blanket thing for me. Weddings, showers, anything mailed to our house–these things deserve, and get, a thank you note from our family. But Christmas and birthday presents for the kids? No. Any time my kids can thank the gift giver directly, they do, and that just seems like that should be enough.
My parents never asked us to write thank you notes, nor did they send them out for us, although they were insistent that we were appreciative. So I never got in the habit. As I mentioned, throughout my wedding process and showers/presents for my babies, I did write notes. I was touched and grateful for how much was given to our family, and I said so. I write notes for many things, like congratulations on new jobs or even deaths, in which I usually share a memory of the person who has died. A note of encouragement of sympathy makes sense to me. But I don’t strictly write a thank you note for every present I have ever received. And I don’t think that makes me a bad person, or a bad mom.
What seems to me to be a hell of a lot more toxic are people who are obsessively keeping score. I know people who are constantly complaining about how long it took to get a note, or what form the note came in, or something along those lines. They always find something to criticize. I have heard people declare that if they do not receive a note, they will no longer buy for that person. That, to me, is so much worse and much more shocking than an absence of a thank you note. Do we give gifts simply to receive adulation? Do we really have to find yet another thing to judge people for? I really hope not.
Recently, I had my second daughter. For circumstances way beyond my control, I had to go back to work (part-time) a week after my c-section. During that time, we were showered with gifts from friends and family. Those who gave presents to us in person were thanked sincerely and profusely. Those who mailed gifts were e-mailed our thanks. Normally, I would try to send a note to each person who mailed something to us but I was barely making it through each day, both physically and mentally. I did feel a little bad, but not all that much; I had to do what was best for my family and my sanity. As it was, I forgot to e-mail at least two people, who e-mailed to make sure we received the gift. I responded immediately with acknowledgement and thanks.
Were some people offended by this? Probably someone, somewhere, was. I’m sure many readers will be scandalized. But, for me, the important thing for ourselves and our children is that we show gratitude. I’m not convinced that always sending a thank you note is the only way to do it, and I especially think the obsessive score keeping is much ruder and much more hateful.
And if anyone out there is so offended that they will no longer send my kids gifts, that’s just fine. They have way too much stuff anyway, and they are already grateful for what we have.