Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cold As Ice

One of my older brothers used to say that I was "cold as ice" and then sing the popular Foreigner song. It always made me laugh.  I was never offended because really, he was dead on.  I'm just not a sentimental person.  I'm not attached to things and I don't need a lot of mushy mushy business in my life.

So it shouldn't surprise you that when my kids brought home a mountain of notebooks, folders and projects throughout the last week of school, I found myself not beaming with pride, but annoyed that my once somewhat organized kitchen now looked like a paper tornado had left its mark.  Every day I dumped piles of paper on top of the already full homework section of the kitchen counter and then simply avoided it all.  Like I do with most things I just don't want to deal with in life.  (see also: clean clothes in the laundry basket sitting on my bedroom floor).

(Kate's self portrait--one of my picks to keep)

It's not like anyone at the school had curated what the kids brought home (they don't have time for that!).  Every art project, busy-work craft, and worksheet was there along with the five composition notebooks each child used for a corresponding subject.

I debated going through it on my own, standing over the recycling bin, but my daughter is much too aware and would have been asking to show me a "special project" from two months ago the second the recycling truck picked up our bins.  My son?  I could ask him about something from school and the response would be, "What?.....ugh.  I don't bemember." (He still has some words that need a little fine tuning ;)

I felt generous going through it with my daughter there next to me.  She excitedly told me about this project and that while also reading every line of assignments she had completed.  She was obviously proud.  I half listened as I ruthlessly skimmed and then purged the composition notebooks that couldn't be used for scratch paper.

(I also chose to keep this one--it looks like the kid who drew this is so HAPPY!)

With my son, I saved a few things and just recycled the rest.  But I felt like I had to consult with my daughter.  And why not?  It was her work, after all.  However, I have my limits.  I explained that we just couldn't hold on to ALL of that stuff and she had to pick one notebook and 2-3 art projects from the pile.

She shocked me with how deftly she was able to choose.  And that was that.  Perhaps she's not as sentimental as I had pegged her.

This exchange happened a week or two before my mom introduced me to a blog named Mommas Gone City. It's a pretty popular blog from a mom who writes about raising her (soon to be four) children.  While perusing her site, I stumbled across an article she had recently published about her experience going through her childrens' schoolwork at the end of the school year.  Let's just say, we didn't have the same approach.  A quote from the beautifully written post should give you an idea of why I say that:

These moments… Even just simply sitting on the couch with them, listening and watching them both show me their school work, the inside of their souls as best as they can describe it, I won’t forget it. - Mommas Gone City

It was so lovely and the picture in my head of this moment with her children felt like maybe that's how I should've handled the onslaught of paperwork.  I mulled it over for a few days.  I wondered if I was being 'present' enough for my kids and really hearing their little voices.  After all, we are all just looking for validation in life.

I ran this story by my best friend and as soon as I finished, we both started laughing.  Her experience was more like mine.  I mean, I grew up one of eight kids.  If I told my mom that it hurt when I breathed, she'd say, "then don't breathe."  (Never mind that I ended up having a collapsed lung.  True story.)  And I think I'm more resilient because of it!

I'm happy that Mommas Gone City shares those special moments with her kids.  Good for her.  We just have a different way of doing things.  And that's what makes life so great.  If we were all exactly the same, what would be the point?

How do you manage the end of year chaos that is "operation desk cleanout" at school?  Do you have a limit to what you keep?  Or are you a little more sentimental and hold onto every last thing?