What are some traditions you began that you hope your children will continue in their future families? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Answer by Jane Chin, who eats Tiger Mothers for lunch:
We began writing to our kid when he was about one. At first, the letters were on Microsoft Word document files and short notes. I was the one who wrote almost all the notes.
A couple of years later, I created an online email address and we began emailing the letters to that address. My husband would start and edit email drafts over the course of a week or month, then email the completed letter to that email address. I usually sit down and type out everything I'd been noodling in my mind in one go and email the letter to that email address.
My husband and I would copy each other in on that email. Often we'd talk about what we shared in that email. These letters gave my husband and me a new way to communicate and learn about/from each other. We learned about each other as parents and how we identified with parenthood.
I noticed that our letters focused on different aspects of our experiences: he would describe the daily life, cute little moments, and notable things that happened. My letters described the emotional lives, how we (or I) felt about a particular situation in our family life, and my feelings around my role as parent and growth as a person.
We expected these to be read when our kid is grown. Thus we were brutally honest about our hopes and fears, dreams and disappointments, angry times and happy times, confusion and struggles as humans (and parents). We hoped the letters can answer questions our kid may have about our parenting choices, or why we thought or acted as we did around a particular situation or life stage.
The letters were not so much a record about our child, as a record of rationale and motivation and thinking behind many of our choices, such that he would not be bound by any false equations of "mom and/or dad's mistakes = my destiny or identity" ... which means this practice could scale (i.e. if we had more than one child, we'd still create one email address and write letters to one email account.)
These letters can be the start of a different kind of family tree: one that describes the family environment and parents' worldview and choices.
Recently I decided to compile 5 years' worth of letters into a physical form: a book an inch thick and over 400 pages. That's a lot of letters, and we've only just begun.