Every week, Mark’s teacher asks kids to write a letter to someone they like, presumably to practise spelling and handwriting. “They will bring the yellow notebook home with a new letter on Fridays—they write to mommy and daddy most of the time, and they love when you reply to them! Just a few words below the letter will do,” Mark’s grade 5 teacher explained at the September meet-and-greet meeting.
I was pretty excited to read Mark’s first letter after two years of school closures and online learning sessions where exercises were painfully completed on my old laptop using the good old hunt-and-peck typing method—punctuation and accents omitted for convenience and added before clicking on “Submit” by yours truly. I rarely get the chance to see him write anything on paper, except cryptic Minecraft tips and tricks I find under the couch. Written words are a window into the mind and I was wondering what he would tell us, unprompted.
The yellow notebook came home with Mark the following Friday.
I eagerly opened it to the first page.
“Dear Father,” the letter started.
Okay, fair enough. Mark admires Feng, and he is a very good father.
Something something about playing football, something something about winning a race.
“Don’t forget to reply to Mark’s letter,” I told Feng later that night. “The first letter was to you.”
I think I sounded very mature about it. On second thought, I might have stressed the “you” but still, I handled it just fine.
The following week, I innocently opened the yellow notebook Mark had left on the table.
Huh. His friend. That’s… understandable, even though his friend isn’t in the same class anymore, even though there’s no chance his friend will ever read the letter, even though all these two care about is Fortnite and Minecraft. But hey, friendship matters, I respect that.
Still, for a second, I vaguely considered replacing the lunchbox ham-and-cheese sandwich with steamed broccoli to send a message. I didn’t, of course—broccoli is way too expensive to waste just to make an obscure point.
The week after, I actually sat down before opening the letter.
I had a bad feeling about it.
Wait, he wrote to Feng again?
“Feng!” I called. “Mark wrote to you for the second time!”
“Oh, man…” Feng grumbled because it’s torture for him to write something meaningful below “sincerely.”
“I don’t get it! Why doesn’t he write to me? I taught him how to read, I taught him how to write, I shared my Kindle with him all summer, I downloaded books, and I bought books! I thought we had a clear parenting agreement here. You—goofing around, tickling, playing poker and football, and teaching him math. Me—explaining life, sharing feelings, enforcing a bunch of rules I don’t even believe in. You’re the parent who teaches numbers, I’m the parent who writes sentences that make sense,” I complained. “Who left him notes in his lunch box for years? ME! Who is the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Santa and the whole gang? ME!”
“I’m sure he will write to you eventually…”
“WHEN? The way things are going, Dear dog, Dear rabbit, Dear TV, Dear tablet, Dear playground, and Dear whatever will get a letter before ME, HIS MOTHER!”
Then we both started laughing because we were catching up in the kitchen at 2 a.m. after a long, busy day of work, and the situation was actually pretty funny.
Last Friday, Mark came home with a new letter.
He brought his yellow notebook to me.
“For you. My best one. I was saving the best for last.”
I almost cried.
I was about to tell him that the letter-writing exercise wasn’t ending with September, but then I received a “Parent Update” email from the school explaining in great confusing details that classes would be reorganized (why now, in October?!) and since Mark is getting a new teacher, maybe it was the last letter.
Don’t care. I got mine.
Mark, if you’re reading this, I wanted to tell you that you’re the best kid ever. I love you. And I did love you before the letter, FYI.
Meanwhile, I spent the past few days getting everything ready for Feng’s and Mark’s birthdays.
I thought the timing was awesome when Mark was born because he had a cool birthdate (10/12/2022) and he was (accidentally) Feng’s birthday present, but I have to say that organizing two birthday celebrations back-to-back is… a lot of work.
Buying presents (one of the guys never wants anything, the other one wants everything), wrapping them, walking home with cakes (and hiding them carefully in the fridge that Feng and Mark constantly open for snacks), decorating…
… whatever. It was worth it, they’re both happy.