It doesn’t matter what I did for you. Maybe I babysat or volunteered; could’ve been I brought you a meal when your latest baby came home from the hospital. Perhaps you’re thanking me for getting your daughter the mermaid bathtub playset of her dreams on her third birthday. Whatever it is, I really, really don’t want you to send me a thank-you note.
I know that your own mother drilled it into your head for your entire childhood that people who didn’t send prompt, poetic thank-you notes were lazy, useless slatterns. I know that you’re trying to set the best example for your children, and we all want our kids to learn to express gratitude, but I also know that you are busy and tired and doing the absolute best you can here. You have enough on your plate, so I’d like to remove one little thing from your massive to-do list. Think of it as an extra bonus to the gift I gave you.
After a day of child-wrangling, pet-herding and bodily-fluid-cleaning, after an hour and a half struggling to get two toddlers in the tub and into bed, when you’ve read three extremely repetitive storybooks and you still have a mountain of mac ‘n cheese-encrusted dishes in your sink, I completely understand that the last thing on earth you want to do is sit down and write me a card.
I’d rather you not suffer on my account, exhausted mama. Please take some time to yourself instead of worrying about what I’m going to think of you if I don’t get an embossed, watermarked, monogrammed missive about how much you love the nipple cream and hemorrhoid pads I gave you for your baby shower. You have my permission to put down the stationery and go to bed.
If you’re anything like me, and I suspect you are, that means you haven’t learned to say “no” as often as you should. It means you give everything you have to your family and your friends and even your pets. You want to make the best choice in every situation and yeah, you want people to think well of you, and you want them to know they’re appreciated. You want to write thank-you notes because it’s the right thing to do.
Letter writing is a lost art. In the Internet age, we are losing sight of real, human connection. But then, that pile of blank notecards looms ominously on your dining room table for two weeks after the birthday party and you can’t find that darned paper where your sister-in-law dutifully wrote down every gift matched with every giver and you can’t imagine sending a generic “thanks for the present” (whatever it was), because your thanks should be intimate and personal. So you procrastinate, and the longer you wait the more overwhelmed you become. You feel guilty. People are judging.
Except me. I think you’re awesome no matter what. I don’t want the people I love to agonize over a piece of paper that I’m just going to throw out anyway. Here’s what you can do instead: give me a hug. I like hugs. Saying thanks in person is plenty. Shoot me a text if you have a second or give me a shout-out on Facebook. Let’s hang out at the park some afternoon when I need a break. Return the favor if possible one day, but never feel obligated.
Don’t get me wrong. I think thank-you notes are lovely and I will certainly write them. I just know that parents are worn out. Because I can sympathize, I want to give my friends a pass. I want my tribe to know that I’m not judging. I already know you’re grateful, and most of all, I do favors and give gifts because I think you’re amazing, not because I’m looking for acknowledgement. So please, never ever write me a thank-you note. I mean it.