04/11/2014 02:59 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Power of a Small Note

I blame my husband. He started them thinking about the notes.

One afternoon my 4-year-old girl asked why I hadn't put a note in her lunch.


"Daddy puts notes in our lunch."

He'd been leaving notes on napkins when making their lunches in the morning: Have a great day. I love you. Love, Daddy.

When I make lunches the nights before school -- no notes.

One morning our 6-year-old forgot her lunch at home, so my husband ran it over to school on his way to work. When I took out the half-eaten contents later that day, I found a note that read: Sorry I forgot your lunch. I love you, Daddy.

And the 6-year-old wrote back to him on a corner of the original note: Thank you.

That note is pinned to the bulletin board above my laptop still.


The 6-year-old often leaves me notes, as well as questionnaires. When we fight at bedtime, she comes out with a piece of paper; at the bottom, for me to circle, are the words Yes and No. In misspelled children's language it reads: Mommy, circle one if you will ever leave us.

I have tucked among the many books next to my bed a recent note she wrote me after we discussed one weekend what it will mean when she goes to college: I love you mommy. I like every thing you do. I will or might stay nearby or not when I grow up.


Then one night after a particularly difficult bedtime during which I screamed and threatened and cursed, and they cried and laughed at me and cried some more, I was feeling horrendous and guilty and ashamed. I wanted to tell them how sorry I was we fought at bedtime.

I left them notes at the table for the next morning. The younger two can't read, so the 6-year-old read the notes to them. Each one got his or her own short message: I love all the questions you ask me, and how you know so many things. Love, Mommy.

"Look, Mommy left us notes!" I heard them scream the first few times they saw their names on folded paper by their chairs at breakfast.

Now, when I don't leave breakfast notes, my son comes into my room: "Mommy, did you forget to leave us a note?" (Yes, sometimes I do forget.)

I leave notes after bedtimes go well also, but our evenings are often hard. There is no way to undo the chaos once they are in bed and asleep, yet I spend much of the night wishing I could. These little messages, and the generous nature of mornings, give us all permission to begin again.


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