“But Mom, why do you throw away my stuff?” My oldest asked one night when I was tucking him in bed----referring to all those papers and art projects he brings home from school and sees me routinely put into the recycling.
I pondered my response, “Well, I don’t throw them all away. I keep the really pretty ones you make.” He seemed OK with my reasoning, but then I was afraid I was sending the message that all his handwriting, math, and reading worksheets were somehow not as grand or spectacular as his sunflower painting that I plan on mating and framing. But the thing is, they aren’t--at least not for the long term.
I know some mothers, my sister, who are quite sentimental and keep almost everything their children bring home---struggling to throw away even the slightest hint of artistic genius.
But I also know I am not alone in my resolve to purge and clean. A good friend of mine told me of a time that she and her kids went to the library and took part in a craft activity. After creating their near Picasso’s, all her children handed her their creations and darted for the van. She took this opportunity to toss them gingerly into the trash can right by the exit door. One of the librarians took offense, “Wow, I was never that calloused as a mother!”
I’m sure I have offended many Sunday school teachers when they hand me, with pride, the creations they’ve facilitated for my kids. These Bible creations often get smashed on the drive home by muddy tennis shoes. These works of art lay lifeless on the van floor.
Then there are those projects that look way too good to be anything my children did with their own hands. These are actually worse. I really don’t want to hang on display something that a 20-year-old volunteer created out of old Christmas cards and construction paper.
Still, my son’s remark made me feel a bit guilty. Maybe I should start a file for him, a special place he can put all those worksheets---feeling that all his work is prized and of equal value. Then when he ages and gets a little life perspective we can remove the work together to the burn pile. Or, if he really wants to keep them, they’ll be out of my way, resting quietly in our file box...waiting for the day when he turns 18, moves out of the house (This is what happens, right?), and takes his folder of academic documentation with him.
But I know myself, and I know I will most likely keep doing what I do....keeping my son’s work for a while, but then quickly and quietly moving these papers out of my house and to another, better place---the recycling drawer.