Why You Should Write Letters to Your Kid to Record Their Childhood

written by JAY WILES
writing letters to your child"
writing letters to your child
Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

Recording your kid’s childhood has never been easier, thanks to smartphones and social media. But while Instagram posts or stories can capture big family milestones and happy moments, they often don’t tell the whole story.

I have two sons: My oldest is 3 and a half and my youngest is 11 months. Two weeks ago, my youngest took his first steps. My first instinct was to pull out my phone and start recording, hoping to capture the next precious moment, which I did. I was excited to post a short video and wait for the excitement of friends and family to pour in. But, a few days later, I also wrote him a letter.

I’ve been writing letters like this for nearly five years. Each usually contains details around a particular milestone, funny sayings they come up with, and anecdotes about the current stage of our family life.

Why I started writing letters to my children

We found out my wife was pregnant with our first in December 2019. We waited a few days to tell our family and didn’t post on social media for a month or two. But I wanted to make sure I could remember this moment of pure joy. So I started writing a letter. It started with, “Dear future child,” and was followed by my speculation about whether they would be a boy or girl, when they’ll be born, their interests, their likes and dislikes, and so much more. I began to realize how special it is to write letters to your child. Here are the handful of ways I’ve used letter writing to capture my children’s infancy and childhood.

Writing during pregnancy

As the weeks went by, I wrote of our pregnancy doctor visits, being able to hear their heartbeat, how we coordinated with bakeries in half a dozen cities to make cupcakes for our virtual gender reveal party with family, and much more. Each letter became a time capsule, capturing hopes and dreams for the future.

In our case, my wife was about four months pregnant at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. My letters reflected the rapid change in society. They went from hopes and dreams to concerns and fears. Without these letters, I would have forgotten how restricted we were in doing anything because my wife was pregnant, even after the world started opening back up a few months later.

Writing after birth

After my oldest son was born, the letters continued. From the details of the delivery and recovery rooms—including the name of the most amazing nurse—to quiet moments of bonding at home, each letter reflected how our family of three was our entire focus, and not social media.

Most of my writing during those first few months came in the middle of the night. I would be rocking my son to sleep or giving him a bottle to give my wife a break. As the minutes and hours ticked by, I would keep writing.

They would also serve as reminders—both when reminiscing about the days when I could hold my baby in one arm, and when my wife and I were preparing for our second child to arrive three years later.

write letters to your child
Source: Gustavo Fring | Pexels

Writing as your child grows

After my oldest turned 1, I noticed a slowdown in the frequency of my letters. While some of that could be attributed to the world opening back up in 2021, a lot of it has to do with his slowing pace of changes.

Every month or so, I would still write letters to record everyday memories along with important changes I see in them. In reviewing my letters for this story, I had forgotten my oldest first kissed me and my wife for the first time on Valentine’s Day 2022, at 17 months old. I had also forgotten when our oldest was 2, he dressed up as Baby Shark for Halloween, and after visiting each house, he would yell, “Want more candy! Next house!”

Writing with multiple children

As our family grew, so did the challenges of parenthood. As any parent with multiple children knows, balancing the needs of two young children is not easy. Despite the chaos, writing letters continues to be important, including the one I wrote when my youngest took his first steps earlier this month.

While a few of my letters have been to both boys, especially when marking an important family event (like a vacation), I try to write to them separately knowing these will (hopefully) be important to their children and grandchildren. I hope it also prevents my youngest from feeling overshadowed by his older brother.

Writing to preserve family history

Beyond documenting my children’s growth, my letters have also become a way to preserve family history—the good and the bad. For example, my mom died suddenly in December 2022. She had been sick with a nasty flu-like illness but encouraged the rest of our family to keep our plans and travel to see my sister for Christmas. However, the day after Christmas, we couldn’t reach her. At first, we didn’t think anything of it; she liked to sleep during the day. But that evening, our lives were turned upside down when we found out she passed away—and we were 1,000 miles away.

After the initial shock and emotion subsided, one of the first thoughts that popped into my head—that I recorded in a letter—was: “If Mom hadn’t made us travel to be together this Christmas, we wouldn’t have all been together to mourn her until later.” Letters like these are a thoughtful way to keep loved ones’ memories alive for your kids.

How I write letters to my children

While I sometimes think about writing these letters on physical paper, I am glad I chose to do so digitally. I began by using a note-taking platform, but after it required me to upgrade to a paid plan, I started writing my letters in Google Docs. I wish I’d done that all along. While it’s not fancy, it makes writing letters incredibly simple. I can open the Docs app on my phone and immediately start typing out a memory or thought to preserve before coming back to finish it later.

Despite my letter writing, I still use social media. As much as I hate to admit, it plays an important role in recording key moments in our lives. But letters can capture not only those fleeting events but everything that surrounds those moments. From detailing late-night feedings to reflecting on life and loss, these letters serve as a reminder of our love.

I am the only one with access to these letters now, which gives me a beautiful window into the past. My plan is to share these letters with my children when they’re older, possibly on their 18th birthday or when they finish school. I hope they serve as a reminder of the love and laughter we share as a family. At the end of each letter, I sign it with “All My Love, Daddy.” No matter the topic, no matter how old they are when they read it, I want to make sure they know their father loves them.

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