Parenting

Anna gets a penpal

This quaint old idea gets a youthful jolt of excitement from seven-year-old Anna and her new friend.

Photo by RTPeat via Flickr.

Anna loves to print. Over the past year or so, it’s been amazing to watch her spelling and printing abilities grow, and to see the sense of accomplishment she gets from communicating exactly what she’s thinking through written word. For a while, this skill translated into lovely cards telling me what a “butifel” mom I was, or notes on the chalkboard to remind us all of an upcoming test or visit from Grandma.

Earlier this year, my niece was over for the weekend, and the two of them created their own book club, with extremely detailed rules and regulations, which they taped up all over the door of Anna’s room. I assumed my niece (who is a year older than Anna) had done the printing, but Anna did almost all of it. Last week, I came home to a note that Anna had written, explaining that she was sorry that I had to come home to an empty house but they had decided to go to the park, and she added details on when they left, which park they’d gone to, and an invite to join them. I love her love of writing and the pride she takes in her abilities.
 
Back in February, an old friend emailed me. We have known each other since Anna and her daughter, Amy, were born, and while we haven’t lived in the same city since the girls were a year old, we keep up with each other via email and Facebook. Since Anna and Amy are the same age, we’re often checking in to see what the other’s up to, and to share our amazement over how grown up they suddenly seem. She emailed me the other day to see what I thought about Amy and Anna becoming penpals. Not to exchange email addresses or become FaceTime friends, but good old-fashioned put-the-stamp-on-the-letter-and-mail-it penpals. She saw handwritten letters becoming a lost art, and thought it would be neat to give the girls a chance to practise their printing while building a new friendship — not to mention introduce that antiquated concept of waiting in anticipation for a letter in the mail. 
 
I was totally game (I know how excited I get to receive an actual letter or card in the mail!), and knew Anna would love the idea. Even better were my friend’s suggested ground rules: No pressure, no timelines, and we send nothing that can’t fit in a normal-sized envelope. Phew.
 
The girls have exchanged a few letters now, starting with handmade birthday cards and followed by questions about things like their favourite colours and TV shows and pets. As soon as Anna gets a letter, she starts talking about what she’ll write back. There is now a picture of Amy in a place of honour in our kitchen, and Anna often remarks with a giggle that they have so much in common (they both love Arthur!), even though they’ve never met.
 
Won’t it be fun when they do? Until that time, I’m sending out a big thanks to my friend for suggesting this great way to keep our girls (and their moms) connected.
 
Do your kids write letters, or do you think this “lost art” is OK to leave behind in such a digital world?

Photo by RTPeat via Flickr.