Last June I launched a product called Handwritten Heritage. It was born out of my own need in hopes that others would enjoy and appreciate it as much as I did. But I was so excited about it and in such a hurry to release it that I never explained the genesis of the idea. Today I want to take a second and tell you the story of the Handwritten Heritage line.
A Lifetime Love Affair With Words
The story starts as many do with a young girl with her nose in the pages of a book. Many of my childhood memories involve reading with my parents and exploring new worlds myself through books. But not only did I love books, I also loved letters. I saved the majority of them no matter their content. Notes from my mom when I was at camp, notes passed in middle school, birthday cards — you name it’s likely that I still have it upstairs in my home.
As I got older I learned about the concept of love languages and even before I took the quiz I knew that my love language had to be words. After I took the quiz it reaffirmed that words are how I give and receive love. After I became a parent I wanted to show my love to my children in the way that meant the most to me — through words. I decided that even if words weren’t their primary love language they could still appreciate the letters. And so I began to search for the best way to go about this project of love.
The Goldilocks of Projects
The idea of writing letters to my children was, of course, not a new idea, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to implement it. I had an online mentor who I had seen sharing handwritten notes from her mother in a journal (the hashtag of the pictures is #meesenotes). After seeing the journal entries that she was posting online I decided I’d start a journal for each of my kids.
I wrote one introductory letter in each journal but then I froze.
When was I going to give them this journal?
When they turned 16? When they got married? When they had their first child? I didn’t want to give them a journal at 16 that had marriage and parenting advice. And I had too much to say about the years before their marriage to wait until that day! So the journal didn’t feel right because I couldn’t figure out what to include in it.
I then saw a suggestion to create an email address and send them emails. So I started email accounts for each child. Figuring out what to write turned into the problem with this method. I ended up just sending pictures to the accounts which wasn’t really what I was wanting to do. I also didn’t like how impersonal email can be. Back before emoji’s you couldn’t even convey tone. I wanted these letters to be personal and for them to be able to tell what I was thinking and feeling when I wrote it.
My House Was A Mess
After all that back and forth I decided to just forget about it for a while. The journals sat on the shelf in my office and mocked me every time I noticed them. Then last spring, my in-laws were coming over the keep the kids while I went out. I was running around like crazy trying to pick up the house. And a thought occurred to me.
Did their house look like this when they had two young boys?
I figured it most likely did but I didn’t know for sure. They (and my parents) had always assured me that the state of my house was “fine” and “no problem”. But never had any of them said, “Our house looked just like this when y’all were little!”
So I asked them. This was kind of awkward because I was afraid that they might say, “Of course not!” But when asked they said, “Of course!” Despite all the time that we spent together and the many times that I’d stressed about this, I had never thought to ask this question. And they had never thought to volunteer that information. The load that lifted from my shoulders knowing that they weren’t just saying that it was ok but actually remembered days like this was immense.
[Sidenote: My in-laws are amazing and I in no way am trying to say that I felt judged before. It was all in my own head and my own issues. Just want to clarify for everyone.]
Later that week I was thinking about the whole situation again. I realized that those are the kinds of things that I wanted to write about to my kids. And if I wrote them as individual letters I could give bits and pieces as the need arose. I wouldn’t have to hold back on my advice because I didn’t want them to read it too early.
How nice would it have been to have had a stack of letters and one said on the envelope, “Open When Your House Is A Mess”? It would have taken that pressure off of my shoulders from the first pinprick of doubt rather than letting the guilt grow.
That’s How Something New Is Born
In the weeks following my initial idea I spoke with many friends to flesh out the idea and see if this was something that would appeal to others. They responded with a resounding yes. They all said that they would love to write letters but didn’t know what to write about. And so, like me, their confusion and indecision led them to just not do anything.
From that I came up with the idea of prompted sets built around a single theme. The first set of prompts that I wrote was the Early Parenthood set since that is the season of life that I’m in right now. It is full of topics that I would love to have a letter about right now.
Open When You Can’t Watch One More Children’s TV Show
Open When You Find Out You’re Expecting
Open When You’ve Been Up All Night With A Crying Child
And, of course,
Open When Your House Is A Mess
I have had friends say that they love the idea of the letters but they just can’t think about it because it makes them think about their own mortality. But the reality is that my mother lives half a mile away from me and, unless they’re out of town, I see her at least twice a week. She is there and available and only a text or short walk away but yet I would still love to have each of these letters from her.
Maybe it’s because our family is not overly effusive with our feelings that I love the idea of having everything in written form. Or maybe the fact that after three kids my memory isn’t what it used to be so I could get some great advice one day and have forgotten it the next.
But I think, to me, it’s about having that wisdom on my own terms that’s so appealing. I could look at it or not and it’s up to me. If I didn’t like the way the letter was going I could put it down whereas if I was standing face to face having the discussion I couldn’t leave. Even if I didn’t read the letters, it would be comforting to know that they were there if I needed them.
And now I write
I’ve sat down many, many times over the past nine months to write letters to my children. I’m not thinking as I sit down that they’ll read them in the future if something happens to me and I’m not here anymore. I’m thinking about the look on his face when I leave him at college with a stack of letters. Or the tears she will shed when she opens a set at her bridal shower.
I sit down and pick a letter, read the prompt, and then write. I don’t stress over it being perfect. If I make a mistake I cross it out and continue. I write from my heart and I pray that God will filter whatever I write through his heart to their eyes as they read it.
Right now I have seven different packs out and already have prompts written but not printed for at least ten more. There are packs for everything from adoption to business to relationship advice for a son. I pray that these packs make it easier and less stressful for moms to make time to write letters to their children. And also encourages them to think about advice for situations that they might not have previously. Some packs are more reflective, the pregnancy and birth pack for example, while many are for the future. And there are no instructions, so you can handle them whatever way you want.
For me, this setup works. It’s easy, not stressful, and there is nothing telling me that I have to write them all before their next birthday or write them at all. I can pick and choose prompts to write or not write and just create these gifts for my children as organically as possible. I don’t let myself feel guilty if I don’t write a letter one week or make sure that I have an equal number for each child. I just believe that in whatever form these letters take, my children will cherish them. And, my hope is, their children for generations to come will also.
After all, texts come and go but letters are forever.