By Narelle Coulter
Each January I sit down and write a letter to my children.
My daughter is 11 and my son 7.
The letters are not for them now.
When I am finished writing, I seal the pages in an envelope, write the child’s name on the front, date it and then pop it in a special box kept on the top shelf of the wardrobe in my bedroom.
On their 21st birthdays I will open the box and give them 21 letters, one for each year of their life.
In this digital age, childhood is documented and recorded like never before.
Photographs, some of them taken professionally, start when baby is still in the womb.
When he or she emerges, cameras and smart phones are constantly at hand ready to record not only milestones like birthdays, christenings and first days at school, but also ordinary, every day moments.
Images of our children are not only filed away in albums the old-fashioned way, but posted on social media, mounted on canvas, printed onto calendars and mugs and distributed by email and text to family and friends.
I do that with my children too.
But I didn’t want pictures and video to be the only record of their formative years.
The letters started from a deeper desire to capture not only what they look like, say and do, but who they are as individuals.
Childhood is a time of rapid growth and change. Each year I try to capture what each child is like at a particular age.
I write to them about their likes and dislikes, new skills they mastered that year, funny things they said, discoveries they made about the world around them and tell stories that illustrate who they are.
I always write in pen on nice note paper. It’s much easier on a computer. However, I want my handwriting to be a connection to me from the past.
In my son’s letter last year I wrote about his first year at school. How proud I was to see him eagerly hoist his enormous school bag on his back and eagerly follow his sister through the school gate as a proper school boy.
In my daughter’s letter I wrote about her maturing social relationships, her generosity and her role as a problem solver and healer among her friendship group.
I also wrote about how perplexed she was by the changing relationships between boys and girls as she approached those critical pubity years.
I write about the games they like to play, the television shows they watch, what they like to wear as those things change as surely as their bodies change and grow.
In one letter I remind my son about that how when watching Play School he would call out to me to guess which window the presenters were going to look through that day.
Both my children are born in January so it is the perfect time to write about the year that has gone, who they are at the age they are about to leave behind.
In some letters I include important family milestones. In 2014 their father and I separated and later divorced. In the letters that year I explain why the marriage failed from my point of view. Children can’t possibly understand the reasons a marriage falls apart. Hopefully, as adults, they will.
Ultimately, I hope my gift will be one of the most special they ever receive.
A humble collection of love letters from the past.