Friday, July 10, 2009

The Death of Thank You

I have to be careful how I write this post. If I'm not, I may come off sounding like a crotchety old woman. Just this morning I had one friend let me know that, in her opinion, I sometimes come off as "straight-laced" and "legalistic". I hope that's not true. I have definite opinions of how things ought to be and I deplore the current mentality that says it's all good - you do it your way and I'll do it mine and it's equally fine. In some things, like how two people might homeschool their kids or feed their family, it's true. But then there's other things that are more black and white and can't be equal, no matter how hard you try.

I like to get thank you notes. I enjoy gift-giving and it's always nice when it's appreciated enough by someone to warrant the time and effort to pen a note. What's even nicer is when I get a note that I wasn't expecting, as in a thank-you for something I did, rather than gave.

This spring we had a lot of kids we knew graduate from high school. I suppose that the older our own boys get, the truer that is going to be. So, we sent some small monetary gifts to those we knew best. I haven't gotten notes for all of them yet and I may not. I think that is deplorable, but not all young people have been taught proper manners (see, I told you I'd sound old here!). I did get one last week though that truly caused me to be speechless. It was a note from a young man that I know quite well. But, the note was written and signed by his mother. I rather imagine she was counting on the fact that most people would not be that familiar with her handwriting, but I am! I could not believe it. Ok, kudos to them for acknowledging the gift, but really - Mommy had to write the note? For her 18 year old? For her high school graduate?

Along these same lines: We attended a wedding last fall and enclosed a check in our card. I'm getting lazy anymore! I'd rather just give money than hunt down items off gift registries! But anyway, two months later we got a thank you note. It said, "Happy Holidays! Thanks for the gifts. Love _________" Gifts? I gave one gift. Obviously, the notes were written without thought to the giver and done in such a way as to merely have the task accomplished. But I should be grateful we even received this. We have been to several weddings in recent years - one where I even served cake - where we never got any type of acknowledgement.

When I went to school we were drilled on how to write thank you notes. We learned the proper salutation and punctuation. We were taught to specifically name the gift and mention how we intended to use it. A nice conclusionary sentence was to follow that, along with the proper closing. I don't know - maybe kids are not taught that in school anymore.

Still, I would hope that parents would be teaching their off-spring the right way to write a thank-you note. But maybe not. I'll be honest here - this is something I struggle with, as a mom. I want my kids to write thank-you notes, but with the younger ones, anyway, it's something I have to walk them through. My schedule is jam packed, all the time, and a lot of times I just forget. My youngest had a birthday May 27th, and we still don't have his thank yous written. That's really not acceptable, though, no matter how busy I am. Next week!

Perhaps it is all in how we are raised, too. I remember in the early years of our marriage I would try and try to get Paul to write thank you notes to my side of the family when they sent him gifts. He wouldn't do it. So I finally gave up and wrote them myself saying, "Paul says to say 'thank you'..." I don't think he's ungrateful, but he doesn't see the importance of sending a note. However, I did notice several years ago that when his sister sent us a substantial financial gift, he was quick to write a note then and even bought a special card within which to do so. So maybe it's the size of the gift that determines whether or not a note gets written! That's really sad, actually. When I was growing up it didn't even matter if we had already verbally thanked our grandparents for a gift - we still had to send a written note! Not everyone is raised that way. And, too, I have to be honest - writing comes easy for me and it's not big deal to jot off a note to someone. I know it's not that easy for others and writing a small note seems like a mountain-sized task to them.

I don't write this to come off as a cranky woman waiting by the mailbox for my proper acknowledgement. I give because I want to, not so I can get nice notes later. But I do think the death of thank-you is a bit sad. I know that in the big scheme of things, it's probably not that big of deal and there are more serious things in the world to be concerned about. But, regardless, when I don't get a note, I tend to remember that, and I do think less of the recipient as a result. I really should not - after all, they could very well have written and the note never made it's way out of the post office. And whether or not someone sends a note really should not be the standard by which I judge them. Hmm - perhaps I AM "straight laced" and "legalistic!"

I am always going to be appreciative of thank-yous and I am going to continue to think that they ought to be done. But I think I should relax a bit, too. Society is getting more and more casual all the time and I'm just going to end up with a headache if I continue to constantly buck against the changes I see, even if they are borne out of laziness. But please, please - I never want to get another thank you note, purportedly from a graduate, written by his mother. That is just too, too pathetic. And that's all I'm going to say!


  1. Amen! I was also trained from a VERY early age to write thank you notes. Cannon & Jewel (both have written processing disorders-Jewel's much worse than Cannon) and I get into fights over my insistance they write thank you notes. I am behind on writing some for myself now, but try.
    A handwritten note of encouragement or thanks is a precious gift.

  2. THANK YOU for writing this post. I feel the same way. I wasn't really taught much about thank you cards when I was little. I do remember my mom writing them on many different occasions but I don't remember her making us do it for ourselves at a young age. I make sure my kids write their own cards. Even when Alexis was only 2 years old I would have her 'write' something and then I would interpret what she said with a little note of my own below it. I will admit that I am kinda hot and cold on this one. There are times that time just gets away from me and I wonder if too much time has gone by that a thank you at that point would seem silly (like 2+ months after the gift was given). I hope that my kiddos will see the importance of writing thank you (and in a timely manner). I also get so offended if I don't get something, some time of acknowledgement that it at least was received and not just lost in limbo land of the mail system. I have stopped sending letters with lots of pics of the kids to Dale's side of the family because they NEVER even mention getting them let alone the fact that they like seeing how the kids are growing. Just frustrating. THANKS again for writing this. i wish there was a not so subtle way to forward this to the people in my life. :)