She walks in the door and immediately drops her jacket, boots and backpack in the middle of the floor. Her excited little fingers fumble with the zipper on her backpack as she rushes to show me her latest works from school. She pulls out her Ninja Turtle folder and pages of traced letters, numbers, haphazardly drawn pictures and notices from the school spill out.
“I made this for you!” she says, handing me a small piece of blue construction paper with what looks like a small white tornado drawn on it.
We go through each paper and talk about what she’s created – why she chose specific colors, how well she traced the numbers today and just how cool the little penguins she created were and did I know that penguins live in Antarctica?
The papers make their way onto the counter where we leave them until dad comes home. Some days we remember to talk about them with him and some days we don’t. After a day or two on the counter, the papers typically make their way to the recycling bin. Until the other day.
The second I heard the rattle of the recycling bin, I knew exactly what was staring at her as she went to toss her raisin box.
“Mom, why did you throw away my pretty picture of the universe?”
My palms got instantly sweaty and my mind raced with possible responses. I felt like the kid getting in trouble. I felt terrible about discarding these beautiful creations she’d been so proud of creating. But what was I supposed to do with them?
“I don’t save papers, Q. We always pick out your favorites to post on the wall, but we always put them in the recycling at the end of the day so they can be made into something new.”
And that was the truth. I don’t save her school papers, with the exception of a handful of drawings I’d stashed in a pile in the back of the closet somewhere.
She nodded, pretending to understand but was quiet and obviously processing it.
As I watched her thinking, I debated my approach and decided there wasn’t anything wrong with not being a sentimentalist. My mom still has a big box of our school papers from back in the day which I’ve never ONCE looked through. I really don’t care about how well I traced my letters in kindergarten or what type of drawings I drew. I haven’t even read the book I wrote as a special year-long project in third grade. It’s not that these aren’t special parts of my life, I just have never once in my almost 40-years of life wanted to go back through the physical items representing several memories I have stored away.
“Would you like me to save more of your works?” I asked.
“Yes, I like them,” she answered.
Am I doing my kids a disservice by not keeping this stuff around? Maybe. But then I wonder if the act of saving these papers is really for the kid – or is it for me? Will I wish I had saved these papers in the future? Maybe. But is this faint possibility enough to make me change my filing system? Nope.
“Okay, sweetie. How about we make a note pad out of them?”
So, what do you do with your kids’ papers?