We all want our kids to feel comfortable and confident with themselves, and to know they are valued. I try to build confidence in my daughter and son on a daily basis. I talk about the strengths I see in them, how much I love watching them do activities that make them happy, and I recognize when they have made good choices. But, like most people, amidst all the other noise (and, ahem, some nagging) they don't always hear what I’m saying. Or they may hear me, but are not truly listening.
So, there is one ritual I started as soon as my daughter was old enough to read. I wrote her a letter on her birthday, and told her all the amazing qualities I see in her, the reasons why we love her so much, and why we think she is unique and special.
When I was seventeen, I went abroad to study for a year, and my father sent me a letter for my birthday. It was the first birthday that I had been away from my parents and that letter was really special. In it, my dad wrote about his memories of the day I was born, the joys of watching me grow, and the qualities he and my mum saw in me as a young woman. I remember thinking at the time how deeply I felt the love of my parents, and that this letter only strengthened the bond between us.
The first time I wrote my daughter a birthday letter, she was much younger than seventeen. My husband and I watched her face as she read the words I had written. It was the most beautiful moment, witnessing our daughter transform as she read each sentence. We could see her filling up with happiness. I knew in that moment that this would become a yearly ritual in our house.
This year, on her birthday, I was more specific about events that have occurred throughout the past twelve months, and about what my daughter has to look forward to in the year ahead. As she grows older, I imagine the letters will shift and change in content, but I always want her to know what’s in our hearts.
Since our son is now old enough to read, I’ll start giving him letters on his birthday this year as well. I want them both to have envelopes full of love that they can look at if they ever need a boost.
Writing a birthday letter is a simple and easy thing to do, but it can have an enormous effect. Because, regardless of our age, don’t we all want to know we’re valued, appreciated and loved?