Dispatches: A New Feature

Tomorrow I’ll be introducing “Dispatches,” a new feature here at letterstomykids.org. “Dispatches” will deliver occasional updates on the letters-to-my-kids concept now and throughout history. By now I’ve figured out that I’m hardly the first parent to write letters to his kids, nor will I be the last. Mothers and fathers have so communicated with future generations for centuries, and with any luck will keep at it for many millenia more.

The premise of “Dispatches” is to convey a sense of the letters-to-my-kids landscape out there and its status, above and beyond my humble little blog. I’ll play reporter, issuing bulletins from the front lines about other letters from other parents to other kids. I’ll also play historian, harking back to parent-to-child letter-writing in years past. This new feature will be primarily journalistic, maybe even a jot scholarly.

Throughout, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for patterns that emerge – trends, organizing principles, unifying theories, even a coda of sorts. But I’ll keep it simple. Above all, I’ll try to offer understanding and insight – about why some parents write such letters in the first place, along with any hints gleaned about why the rest of us might follow suit.

I’ve done some homework over the last six months, scanning the web for samples of parent-kid letters, and from hundreds have selected but two dozen or so to highlight in coming months. It’s good stuff. So far, my research has yielded some telling though preliminary findings about our motives for writing such letters, clues about what prompts this archival impulse, this epistolary urge, in the first place.

The letters I’ll post touch on everything imaginable, from politics and religion to everyday domestic life and society in general. For now, though, it seems to me, the letters fit largely into the following six categories.

Valentines: So giddy are we with the thrill of parenthood, so do we marvel at the miracle of a creature we’ve created, that we compose love letter rhapsodies.

Advisory: We’ve packaged all our hard-won wisdom about what’s right and what’s wrong for our kids in a handy one-stop-shop format.

Humor: We’ve discovered that parenthood is too serious a matter to treat too seriously and so have proceeded with mirth aforethought.

Advocacy: We’ve stepped forward to testify about an issue close to our hearts as a public service for the betterment of future generations.

Confessions: We all have heavy emotional stuff bottled up inside us, family secrets and grievances and whatnot, that are just screaming to get out.

Mortality: We’ve realized we’re going to die someday – we’ve glimpsed shadows of twilight inching toward our front door – and will now leave behind the prized legacy of our memories.

In the year ahead, then, thanks to this new feature, you’ll be linked to parents – moms outnumber dads about six to one – with all manner of tale to tell. You’ll hear from parents who lavish extravagant praise on unsuspecting offspring, offer hard-won lessons learned, laugh about the absurdity of it all, go to bat for birth control and the environment, admit to everything from unwanted pregnancies to kidnappings, and, yes, even stare death right in the face.

But enough preview. Tomorrow let “Dispatches” begin our new adventure.

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