There’s no point in sugarcoating this for parents with graduating seniors. May is going to be a rough month. It’s not the angst of prom, the anxiety of a late effort to get your child into the college of their choice, or even putting up with senioritis behavior.
No, it’s much worse. It’s coercing, browbeating, bribing, begging, threatening or cajoling your senior to get off his lazy procrastinating rear and write those graduation thank-you notes. Consider it a summer project because that’s how long, on average, it takes.
For those parents entering this period of your lives for the first time, having your child write thank-you notes is as foreign to them as actually graduating. Chances are very good they haven’t done either one yet.
But they need to know there are no free lunches. Nothing is free, and as all discover, that unquestionably includes college. The gravy train known as graduation gifts has expectations. Gift cards, shirts, khakis, belts, cash, cologne, coolers, blankets, laundry bags and assorted books have consequences.
Do they think you sending a graduation invitation to someone no one could pick out of a police lineup – who may have actually been in a police lineup – doesn’t have some strings attached once the appointed gift arrives?
You know that. They need to know that.
What is staring them in the face is one of the most crucial, defining moments of their lives, one of the rites of passage from childhood to responsible adulthood. It’s taking a pen, a pile of blank thank-you notes, a list of who gave what, and to them, these prehistoric configurations called envelopes, sitting at the kitchen table and toiling away.
Skyping Granny thanks isn’t going to cut it, nor is Facebooking a friend’s mother or sending a quick text. Even if, these days, that’s social media faux pas. It needs a personal touch.
Here’s a cold, hard fact of the Real World, maybe one of the first ones they need to learn. Their momma ain’t writing notes. Their daddy sure isn’t. That leaves one person. Tell them, “That be you, Graduation Boy,” and suggest they get cracking.
Divide it up into what works best – five a night, 20 by the end of the week, or an all-night binge of 30 fueled by Red Bull and chocolate chip cookies. The only danger there is, fatigue and carelessness could have him thanking his fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Lipschitz, for the package of black boxer shorts when in fact she gave him a laminated bookmark of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
This isn’t going to be easy. It never is. It will be a Summer of Suffering that could extend until Independence Day. No package of white socks should be left unturned without a heartfelt thank you.
Motivation is a personal taste for those who don’t quite think it’s their job, or who say they’ll get this “crap” done later. It’s hard to go wrong with a bullwhip, dipping the cat o’ nine tails in water, when it’s late June and the notes still aren’t complete.
Before your child gets started, a bit of advice wouldn’t hurt. Otherwise, they will have to rewrite a few, and if that happens, trust me: You’ve never heard such wailing and gnashing of teeth.
It’s also a good idea that the handwriting on the notes doesn’t look like some third-grader on too much cough medicine. While authentic, it looks pretty amateurish.
Secondly, harp on them the non-negotiable importance of making sure every word is spelled correctly, including their name. If there are only four correct letters in the word “thoughtful,” all that is going to do is cause Aunt Edna to wonder why she even bothered.
Third, emphasize it has to be more than one sentence. The second sentence is why the gift is pretty neat, even if it may not be. For example: “Dear Great-grandmother, “Thank you for the Old Spice gift set. Your timing is perfect as the last one you gave when I was 12 has started smelling like diesel. Love, (your name).” (Make sure they don’t actually write ‘your name.’)
There’s nothing wrong with being honest, but it can’t be hurtful. After all, it’s a thank-you note and many gift givers are relatives.
Tempting though it may be, let’s stay away from the revenge thank-you note: “Dear Mrs. Collins: “Thank you for the Best Buy card. My mom was just saying, after getting invitations from every one of your eight kids, that she is, by God, getting one from us and she’d better come through. Well, you did. Thanks again.”
That’s about all I got. Tell your graduate the first step into post-high school maturity ironically comes with a pen. This is how the great leaders of our time got started, knocking out thank-you notes and crossing them off the list one by painful one.
It’s a brave new world they’re entering, but the door remains closed until the thank-you notes are finished.
by Jon Mark Beilue
Jon Mark Beilue is a columnist for AGN Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (806) 345-3318.