Love Notes

Love Notes

From A 6th Bowl of Chicken Soup for the Soul

Love Notes

Talking to children is simple. It’s getting them to listen that is the real challenge. As my children approached school age, I noticed they had already perfected the skill of looking attentive while tuning me out. They nodded automatically while they gazed into space and pretended they were listening. I knew I was going to have to come up with an alternate means of communication if we were going to survive the years ahead.

While contemplating the situation, I discovered that as soon as they learned to read, they couldn’t resist reading a note. If it looked like it was written to a sibling or my husband, so much the better. I also noticed that notes written in small print or buried under a stack of mail caught their attention quicker than ones posted on the refrigerator.

I began to experiment with little notes such as “Please put your shoes away” and “Do not eat the cake.” At first, this was successful. They felt grown-up receiving their own “letters,” and I saw instant results. Unfortunately, as they grew older, they caught on. I could leave a gigantic note on a bedroom door and be told, “Gee, Mom, what note?” This is where ingenuity took over. I stopped leaving notes.

Instead, I changed my identity and became The Maid, The Management, a Demolition Crew or anyone else appropriate to the note I was leaving. If a bedroom became too messy, a large CONDEMNED sign and a locked door brought almost immediate results. The Demolition Crew left notice that they were coming in to clear things out if improvements weren’t made soon. The Management posted notices that threatened to take away bathroom privileges if the sinks didn’t get cleaned, or The Ants left a note if cookie crumbs were found on a bedroom floor.

Not all the notes were negative. Once The Maid left a note in the bathroom to let the children know they had been doing a good job. “Aren’t you brushing your teeth anymore? There hasn’t been toothpaste on the ceiling, mirror or light fixtures lately! Keep up the good work.” Another one said, “Your bed has been made for two weeks straight. Have you been sleeping elsewhere?”

The notes caught on, and the members of our household never took a trip without notes tucked into their suitcases. Children going off to camp, Dad on a business trip—everyone received notes. One time my husband was cheered up in a lonely hotel room when he found the scribbled, misspelled message “I mess you” neatly tucked into a sock.

I received my share of love notes, too. The children would remind me to pick up a band uniform at the cleaners or request that I buy hair spray. Sometimes there were silly notes that stated, “Homemade cookies make children feel loved.”

There were also the simple notes that touched my heart, like the one on an extremely difficult morning when my second-grader and I had gotten off on the wrong foot. She stomped off to school in a huff, and I was left feeling like the world’s worst mother as I went out to do my grocery shopping. I dragged myself up and down the aisles, shopping list in hand. Glancing down at my list, I discovered in between my entries a tiny “I sorry” written in her childish handwriting. I blinked fast and swallowed the lump in my throat before I continued my shopping with a new spring in my step.

I also left notes at special times. When one of the children was facing a difficult problem, an encouraging word could be found tucked into a lunch sack, jacket pocket or even a shoe. I tried to remember important test days, choir tryouts or other traumatic events and offer a written word of encouragement. Abundant praise might be found under a pillow or wrapped around a toothbrush after a special accomplishment.

The notes were usually accepted without any verbal response. Every once in a while, I would hear a “Cute, Mom, cute,” after a note was found. However, the notes always seemed to produce action and results.

Looking back, I realize our notes were a successful way for all of us to express ourselves. It saved me from having to nag about chores, brought comfort during difficult times and made praise seem more meaningful when it was put in writing. Most important, I retained my sense of humor as I tried to think of original ways to approach problems. In recent years, the notes I found were a bit different from the original, scrawled, misspelled messages. There was one pinned to a wedding dress that was left to be taken to the cleaners that said, “Mom and Dad, thanks for the wonderful wedding. It was a dream come true.”

The next week, I found one after my youngest child returned to college. As I dug into her hamper to do the remaining laundry she had left behind, I found a crumpled piece of paper. It said, “Way to go, Mom . . . love you a bunch.”

As the years passed and my daughters all married and left home, I thought our note-writing days were over. However, I still find unexpected notes left in strange places long after they have returned home from visits at my house. And I’m not beyond leaving notes at their houses, too!

June Cerza Kolf

Reprinted by permission of J. Kohl.

More stories from our partners