One blustery November school day, my older two children burst through the door at 3:05 pm, slightly before their typical arrival. By the way they dumped their backpacks, castoff their coats, and yanked at their shoes, I knew something was terribly wrong.
“Hey, guys! Is everything okay?”
With eyes widened and hands on hips, they stared at me, raging like a silent storm, their faces brooding and ominous with dark clouds gathering and rain threatening to pour. Their collective countenance shook me, their silence even more.
“Sweethearts, what’s wrong?”
John found his voice first. “You didn’t put a note in my lunchbox.”
“Me neither!” Hannah nodded vehemently.
I gasped. “Really?”
“Really!” they said in unison.
“I’m sorry!” Thankfully, those were the words that fell from my lips, and my wounded children instantly forgave me. Relieved smiles and, “That’s okay, Mommy!” surrounded me as I found myself all covered up with kids.
As we embraced each other, my mind reeled, attempting to take in what my children’s direct confrontation had brought to the forefront. I’d had no idea how much my scribbling on a napkin during the wee hours of the morning had affected my children, little by little, day after day.
And it blessed me.
When they’d first started the school year, I’d planned to just pop a note in now and then, not necessarily every day. But the writer in me found myself enjoying the process, so a personalized napkin made it into their boxes daily.
Until this particular November day.
A little finger tapped my forearm, poking me back into the present. I turned to see Abby standing off to the side, crossing her arms and jutting her chin.
“Oh yeah, Mommy! That’s right! I remember now. You didn’t put one in my snack box at preschool, too!”
“I’m sorry, Abby!”
“That’s okay, Mommy!” And she jumped with glee into the middle of our wonderful mayhem.
Because Abby doesn’t yet read, I typically draw something simple that she can decipher herself, so it’s a nice way to let her know Mommy loves her. But that’s about it. I can’t go very deep without words.
Looking back, I’m thankful for my oversight because in so doing, the forgotten lunchbox note put a big memo in mine, declaring loudly from the schoolhouse steps that one of the most important things I do each day is to take five minutes and write something meaningful on cheap white paper napkins with colorful markers.
It’s a megaphone into the hearts of my children.
They don’t mind if it’s cheesy or that I can’t draw like Picasso. They don’t care if I misspell or screw up the punctuation. They’re not picky about Bible translations or verb tenses. They simply want a personalized message to them from me.
How powerful is the word of a parent into the heart of their child!
One time, I put multi-colored pre-printed cards I’d cut out of a magazine and then laminated into their boxes, thinking it would be something special. Both kids came home, saying, “Thanks, Mom – but where’s my note?”
I dropped the whole fancy card bit.
We also had to have a talk about actually using the napkins after John came home with remnants of lunch around his mouth.
“Didn’t you use your napkin, Buddy?”
He gasped. “Why no, Mom! I would never wipe my mouth with my special lunch note! Really – I never use them.” He smiled and puffed out his chest at this great accomplishment and symbolic act of respect.
I now pack two napkins for him. I keep telling my thrifty side that it’s an investment.
One I can’t afford to stop.
My kids and I laugh now about that first episode, for it’s happened another time or two. My younglings realize I’m not perfect and still deeply love them. Instead of their initial emotive reaction, all I get is a playful scolding followed by a forgiving hug and grin.
And a, “Please don’t forget tomorrow, Mommy!”