When the twins started school last August, it was a big transition. We were incredibly worried about how J would handle things because she’d been so fraught with anxiety for months. I knew I would struggle with it, just conceptually because of what it represented. And of course it was a major shift in our routine.
One of the things I did those first couple of days of school is pack a little note in their lunch (snack) boxes so that halfway through their day they would get a little message from Mommy telling them how great they were and that I loved them. After a couple of days, H told me that she would hear them say, “I hope there’s another note in my lunchbox today.”
So I continued. I bought 4×6 cards and stickers at the dollar store and would write notes before I left for work. Sometimes they’d be generic – “Have a great day, be good. I love you!” and sometimes they were specific to what was happening that day. When we opened their lunchboxes at the end of the day, the notes were always in there, and I have them saved in a drawer in the kitchen. The generic ones often get more than one use – pulled out on days when I’m running late or not feeling well. So far they haven’t complained about seeing a note twice, and honestly I wasn’t even sure they were reading them.
Enter their most recent parent-teacher conference. This past Monday was conference number 2, and after we were done I ended up in a lengthy conversation with the co-teacher of their class (the morning class teacher who assists through the first half of their afternoon class). I told her how tickled we were at all the notes J leaves us after bedtime, and she says, “Well, I wonder where she gets THAT from?”
It took me a second to realize she was talking about me and the notes I leave in their lunchboxes. I said that I didn’t even know if they read them or not, but they seemed to want them every day so it has become a tradition.
That’s when she said, “Oh, they read them. The other kids ask them to read them out loud every day.” I was dumbfounded. “Really?” I asked. “Oh yes. They love them. They read them every day. Every. Day.”
I’m not sure why this touched me the way it did. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Is this one of those things they’ll grow up and remember about their school years? Is this a story they will tell about me to their kids when they keep the tradition going? And at what point am I embarrassing them by leaving them notes in their lunches or their backpacks?
For me, these notes are sometimes my first contact of the day with them. I leave for work early, and often one or both of them are still asleep. Sometimes I get to talk to them on the phone before they go to school. Now that I know they actually read them, the question of whether to continue them falls away. As I sat thinking about this whole thing this morning, I realized I have no idea where I got this. My mother never did anything like this. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, but not in that “Betty Crocker” kind of way. I don’t remember her lovingly packing my lunch or snuggling with me on the couch after school to talk about what I did. I don’t remember bedtime routines or traditions that didn’t have anything to do with a holiday. Is that because they were so long ago I just don’t remember? Is it because they never happened? What will N and J remember?
Sometimes I worry that I don’t do enough for my kids. That they aren’t in enough activities or we don’t spend each night playing board games and making crafts. We aren’t that household, as much as I thought we would be. Most nights it’s about getting homework done and relaxing and dinner. Then it’s bath, book, and bed to do it all over again tomorrow. There’s that “enough” concept again. It comes out in the least expected places, doesn’t it? The thing is, this conversation with their teacher reminded me that it really is the little things that matter. The notes in the lunchbox. The twirling around in my arms before bedtime (J’s favorite). The snuggles on Saturday mornings. The nights we eat Lucky Charms for dinner because it’s just fun. Singing in the car as loud as we can to Taylor Swift’s “Mean” or Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger.”
And I send up a little “thank you” for the reminder.