When a student leaves my mom's fifth grade classroom, they take with them a lot of experience in writing thank you notes.
Though I'd like to say her fine influence has made me an exemplary written correspondent, that would be a disturbingly egregious lie.
Thank you notes have been particularly problematic for me. I spent many years trying to write a perfect note to express appreciation for truly generous acts.
A good friend (who also happens to be a fine writer) counseled me that a perfect thank you note is any appreciative one written in a timely manner.
Since that conversation, I've been a lot better about offering thanks.
Jim and I wanted a way for Ranger to engage in pro-correspondence environment even while pre-literate. Friends and family have been wonderful about sending him mail- especially post cards, so he knows firsthand the pleasure of receiving mail.
For Father's Day, he let us trace his hand onto a homemade card for my dad. A few weeks later Jim was sending a birthday card to our favorite primatologist and Ranger kept circling him- asking insistently for paper and crayons. Jim gave him coloring sheets and crayons, but he kept asking for more. Finally he brought a coloring sheet to me, handed me a crayon, and placed his hand at the center of the paper to be traced.
"Jim, I think he wants to sign the card." So Jim traced Ranger's hand inside the card. Ranger was proud and satisfied. He handed the crayons and paper back to me and went in the other room to play.
With Ranger's handprint contribution, he's an active part of our all family thank you notes and written greetings. And honestly, it gives me even more motivation to write. This morning he and I caught up on our correspondence with 6 thank you notes.
Even if this doesn't give him a lifelong interest in thank you notes, maybe he'll simply become a fan of the Peter Lorre horror classic Beast With Five Fingers.
I also try to keep a pack of blank cards in the car for quick access and unexpected delays. These great instructions (and thougtful post on thank you writing) at Soule Mama show how to make a lovely and practical portable correspondence kit.