The Notes

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It takes me a second to realize that Mark snuck into my bedroom again.

I smile.

At first glance, nothing was moved or touched—stealthy kid. But like in one of those “photo hunt” games where the goal is to find a number of differences between two near-identical images, I immediately notice he was here, even if briefly.

The last thing I remember writing on the small notepad by my computer is a document’s word count when I was invoicing a client the night before. It’s now open to a page that says: “TRN THE PIGE. I LOVE YOU.”

I’m a translator, after all, so it doesn’t take me long to figure out it means “turn the page.”


Okay, I need help for the rest of the message. I go downstairs and ask Mark. “Mommy, we’re going to play ball,” he shrugs, as if I had to focus on my reading skills because really, vowels are optional, aren’t they?

Then he goes back to watching horror movie trailers on the tablet. We don’t talk about the things we write—we write them, that’s good enough.

It all started because of the lunchboxes.

When I sent two-year-old Mark to daycare, I guilt-tripped myself into making unique, healthy and elaborated lunchboxes. It was a way to say “I love you even when I’m not physically here,” a way to apologize for no longer having him strapped to my chest 24/7, as a way to assert I was still a caring mother even if I was now entrusting him to the care of strangers who, for six hours every day, would “provide high quality, developmentally appropriate activities” or whatever the daycare’s mission statement was (I never paid attention, we just wanted a daycare that wouldn’t declare bankruptcy at this stage!).

The lunchbox routine hit a roadblock when Mark entered kindergarten. Not only meals had to be eaten cold but I also had to refrain from using a long list of ingredients, including eggs and nuts, because of national school policies regarding food allergies. To top it all, since kids don’t have a mandatory lunch break, Mark’s invariably reports he “doesn’t have time to eat”.

Goodbye, Pinterest-worthy lunchboxes. These days, my lunchboxes don’t show my love, they say “I’m putting random stuff in here just in case but hey, we both know you’ll eat as soon as you get home anyway.” A tiny sandwich, a piece of cheese, a couple of store-bought spring rolls once in a while, and that’s it.

To make up for these pathetic lunchboxes, I started writing notes to Mark. I’d leave them by his shoes, in the morning, with a cereal bar or a piece of chocolate. At first, I wrote the same thing over and over again—“eat lunch!” Then I branched out and started to draw or write different messages. I didn’t think much of it until I realized that Feng had kept the notes—we had quite a stack at the end of the school year last June.

The note routine became more interesting this year.

See, Mark can read now.

Allow me a brief moment of parental pride because 1) I gave birth to him and I guarantee you he came out without any reading skills whatsoever 2) I taught him to read 3) he is only 5, after all.

At the back of my mind, I knew that one day, Mark would be able to read my notes.

I didn’t think he would actually start writing notes to me, but I love it.

So now, we write random notes to each other.

Sometimes, it’s easier to write things than it is to say them. At 1 a.m., when all the chores are done, when Feng and Mark are sleeping, when the stress is gone and when all I have left to do is to go to bed, I want to hug them both.

That’s when I write my notes.

Love you too, Mark.

Mark doing the shark

Mark reading his old notes

Mark doing the monster

Mark doing the shark

Mark reading his old notes

Mark reading his old notes

Mark doing the shark

Mark doing the monster

Mark reading his old notes

Mark doing the rabbit (yeah, well, it’s HARD to do the rabbit!)

Mark doing Pennywise, the clown in “It” (holding a balloon)

Mark doing the springroll

The notes

The notes

Mark taking a picture of me taking a picture of him

Me taking a picture of Mark taking a picture of me

Mark taking me with his notes

Mark taking me with his notes

Mark’s notes

Mark’s notes

Mark’s notes

Mark’s notes

Mark’s notes


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Thanks for sharing! I love it! Je trouve que c’est une belle idée, un partage d’amour, et même encore plus que ça. J’ai deux questions : 1) Comment as tu fait pour lui apprendre à lire? B. est en demande mais je ne sais pas si je devrais me plonger dans des bouquins dédiés ou juste essayer avec n’importe quel livre pour enfant. 2) Il n’a pas le temps de manger??

    • For the second question… I’m not going to rant again here, I emailed you 😉

      I didn’t really use a specific method to teach him. I tried the French method at first but it doesn’t work in English and I had NO idea how kids here learn to read. It was mostly practice over the months, first sight words (la lecture globale) then simple sounds (ee, oo, etc.) then eventually he got it. Note that he is still learning, it’s not like he can read anything without mistakes. But he can read my notes without help and simple sentences in books. More and more, he’s deciphering words he has never seen before. I think at this stage, I can say he can read but yes, he needs practice!

      • As I will teach her to read in French, I guess I could try to show her the different sounds, such as li, lo, lu… I’m going to try 🙂

        • I think what motivated Mark at first was to learn how to write. He didn’t even care so much about reading, he wanted to write. Both skills are linked, obviously, so I’d made a list of words highlighting the common sounds: “Boots” “Moon” “Noon” “Food” etc. for the “oo” sound. He liked that, he found it rewarding I think to be able to write and recognize words little by little.

  2. Martin Penwald on

    « Faites des gosses. » qu’y disaient…

    Je ne me suis jamais vu parent. Mais, depuis dimanche soir, je suis Tonton niveau 3 (1ere nièce après 2 neveux).

    • Félicitation, même si t’as rien fait 😀

      Tonton, c’est cool aussi. Et un tonton avec un gros camion, ça doit être la classe absolue. J’en ai un, d’oncle, qui a bâti sa popularité sur ses motos (moins quand on a grandi et qu’on a compris qu’il se plantait quand même souvent avec :-/)

      • Martin Penwald on

        Le truc marrant, c’est que je parlais de mon neveu le plus vieux qui va bientôt avoir 2 ans avec mes parents, et il se comporte comme Mark à son âge. Il pique des colères pour rien, et il est fasciné par les grosses machines.

        • C’est marrant à quel point, à travers les cultures et les situations, les comportements/stades de développement sont les mêmes.

          Ça va passer, les terrible twos. Mais purée, que c’est un stade pénible…

          • Martin Penwald on

            Oui, mais je m’en fous, j’y suis pas. Enfin, je vais prendre quelques semaines en septembre.

          • T’inquiète, ça sera pas passé d’ici septembre, tu admireras à quel point c’est chiant en personne 😆

  3. Awwwwwwwww
    You’re too cute you two!
    And also put me to shame, because instead of notes, my son has a mom who often forget parts of his lunch, or forget snacks… 😀
    And wow to teach Mark how to read, and in another language on top of that, is huge!
    I am trying to do that with Number Two, but since her brother learned by himself how to read, I just don’t know how to teach her, I only sometimes let her play with Graphogames on my phone, so at least she can recognize some sounds, and it’s available both in French and English, which is actully really interesting as you realise, the different languages are learnt differently.

    • I think at one point, no matter how you teach them (or what you teach them) kids just “get it” by themselves. I basically show Mark, explain and then usually he figures it out. And if he doesn’t, I drop it for a while and when he is ready, we come back to it.

      • Exactly!
        And I know she is not ready yet, but still as she asks a lot, I only want to encourage her
        but I actually would want her to drop it… and that’s something she still has to learn 😀

  4. This is just the most charming thing ever. I especially love this – “Sometimes, it’s easier to write things than it is to say them.” Words of wisdom!

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