Skye Gould's mother, Stephanie Skylar made an impression on her daughter over a decade ago with more than 100 hand-written notes packed into her school lunch with inspiring messages of love, encouragement and advice on surviving sixth grade. Skye took the letters and turned them into her master's thesis for visual communication as covered by Today. We sat down with Skye and her mother to learn more.
What did you think when you started getting letters from your mom? Were you surprised?
Skye Gould: No, I wasn’t surprised because we started the project together. She first wrote me small notes without advice, but after she added her wisdom to the letters we decided it would be fun to make it a daily project.
Why did you create a website about this process? What about how they affected you did you want to share?
Skye Gould: I wanted my masters project to be something very personal. I remembered I had the letters after over a decade when I first started grad school and I thought it was a perfect time to share them in a creative way. The letters impacted me throughout my adolescence and adulthood more than I even realized at the time. My mom’s encouragement and advice has always been with me because she took the time to write it down every day.
Did the fact that they were handwritten letters carry a special meaning? Would it have changed anything if you had received typed letters, emails, or texts (had the medium been available)? Do you think we’re losing out on something as a society because letter-writing isn’t as predominant form of communication?
Skye Gould: Handwritten letters do carry a special meaning - I’ve always saved every note or birthday card from friends and family because it’s a reminder of their significance in my life. I wouldn’t have saved these messages had they been texts or emails because I think part of the beauty of the project is that my mom took the time to handwrite the notes. It is difficult to see young children becoming addicted to technology so soon - I think we should still encourage young people to communicate in more special ways.
What would you suggest to those interested in doing something similar with their own children or loved ones?
Skye Gould: I would encourage them to stick with it long enough to see an impact in that person’s life. Sometimes it’s difficult to get a message through to someone and I know my mom struggled with that when I was growing up, but over the years her guidance still stuck with me.
Have you done something similar for your friends to keep the tradition going?
Skye Gould: I still really enjoy writing my friends and family birthday cards and thank you notes and I still send my mom notes as well.
How often do you look back at the letters and how do you store them?
Skye Gould: I spent over a year making this website and curating the notes so I spent a lot of time looking through them then. I still store them in the same shoebox I kept them in originally on my desk, but I’d like to frame some of my favorites so I can be reminded of them more often.
Tell us about your handwriting. Does it get better or worse with more letter writing? What’s your favorite kind of paper—ruled, blank, decorated? Do you write double-sided, or start a new sheet fresh after filling the front of a page?
Skye Gould: I have terrible handwriting actually - I’m a graphic designer so you would think mine would be more legible, but it’s pretty sloppy. I think my mom has always had pretty good handwriting - although some of the notes are better than others, you could always tell when she was in a rush. Personally, I hate ruled paper - I’m usually scribbling or sketching for work so I prefer blank paper.
What motivated you to write your daughter letters every day?
Stephanie Skylar, Skye's Mom: I wanted to make a difference in her state of mind and how she viewed the world. But pre-teens take everything as criticism or annoyances, so I wrote down my thoughts and they did not come across as threatening.
Why did you choose letters? Was there something specific about the medium that led you to choose it?
Stephanie Skylar: The written word allows you to revisit the message at a later date. You can stare at the words and process their meaning. Also, she could read them privately while at lunch.
If you were planning to try to connect with your daughter now with the advances in technology, would you still use paper letters? Why or why not?
Stephanie Skylar: Great question. Skye is 23 now. When something big happens in her life I send her a card in the mail with a note inside. Yes, I would still send a letter.
What suggestions would you give to people today interested in doing something similar to connect with their children?
Stephanie Skylar: Don’t be afraid of how corny it looks or how it may be perceived. Deep down that child knows you care and you love them.
What was the most surprising thing about developing this relationship with your daughter? What did you learn about each other?
Stephanie Skylar: She really listens to me. But I didn't know that until many years later when it was obvious what a wonderful young woman she had become.
Were there any challenges in the letter writing?
Stephanie Skylar: No. Some days I had more inspiration than others. The situations she was in gave me the best writing prompts.