Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tea and Toast and Thank-You Notes

By Mindy Lockard
Etiquette Consultant

The child’s birthday candles have been blown out, the balloons deflated, and the sugar-wired children sent home with their parents. Now with three-quarters of the cake still looming on the counter, it’s easy to want to kick up your feet, pour a glass of wine, and relax. But wait, there’s one more step, perhaps the most important of them all—thank-you notes!

If you love the thank-you process, I applaud you. If you see it as a bit daunting, you are not alone. I admit, after large events the guilt and dread of the impending thank-you process (always the process, never the idea) follow me like Pig Pen’s dust cloud. Don’t get me wrong: I wholeheartedly value writing notes, not just because I teach etiquette but because I truly believe in them. However, when I am not prepared for the process, I don’t necessarily approach it with a joyful spirit. Knowing this about myself, I’ve worked long and hard to establish good thank-you habits for me and my children. I’m happy to report that my children actually like the process and are known to say, “Oh, Mommy, we should write so-and-so a thank-you.” Of course, a little motivation helps: our family policy is that toys and activities can’t come out of their packaging until the thank-you notes have been signed, sealed, and delivered to the mail carrier.

We celebrated Elle’s sixth birthday last week. (I can’t believe she’s six!) Rather than feeling intimidated by the stack of thank-yous we had to write, we made it special with our “tea and toast” tradition. After bathtime and with PJs on we got out the “royalty dishes” (as Elle calls them), popped some bread into the toaster, steeped our favorite tea, and sat down with our social stationery arsenal and a whole lot of patience. (A few thank-yous always fall victim to sticky fingers and dribbled tea, so we plan to have a few extra notes and cloth napkins on hand.)

1. Personalized stationery
2. ManneroftheMonth.com thank-you tracking sheet. We love this sheet because it helps us stay organized and on track throughout the process.
3. Well-organized list of names and addresses
4. Address embosser
5. Stamps

Using our ManneroftheMonth.com tracking system, we discussed every gift over tea and toast:

Who is the gift from?
What gift did they give?
Why are we thankful for it?
How will it be used?

When Elle was younger, I asked the questions and wrote down her response. Now that she writes each note on her own; the responses are a bit shorter since she’s just new to writing. Many times I need to spell out each word: this is where patience comes in.

After each note is finished, we celebrate by checking it off on our tracking sheet. Elle gets such a sense of satisfaction as she checks off each name: who doesn’t love checking items off a list? I certainly do.

Teaching the importance of writing notes takes time and energy. I’ll admit that after entertaining 34 children for a couple of hours, putting the effort into writing notes is not something I desire to do. However, Ty and I believe that the habit of writing thank-you notes and, more importantly, the confidence they instill is one of the best gifts we can give our children.

I’m sure the thank-you for that gift will follow in the years to come!


Jennifer said...

I agree wholeheartedly that having your children writing thank you notes at an early age is important. It becomes a habit just like putting on a helmet before riding a bike. Thanks for the suggestions to help make the process more fun for everyone.

Peter Hopkins said...

Hi Jennifer:

My pleasure. Mindy's post almost makes me want a sweet 6-year-old around the house again. Almost.


Mindy Lockard Etiquette said...

Peter, just say the word and she’s on the next flight east. A little East Coast air and Crane & Co. education would be a perfect weekend get-away for a 6-year-old. Don't you think?

Thanks for the opportunity to write for one of my all time favorite companies! You do good work, sir!

Best regards, Mindy

Elizabeth Coleman said...

Dear Mr. Hopkins,
I love this post for so many reasons. Primarily as a reminder to me to have beautiful stationary at my fingertips to write prompt thank you notes. Secondly, as a mother of three small boys, to make the experince fun, personal, and sincere. I enjoy reading Ms. Lockards posts, please keep them coming!
Thank you,
E. Coleman