Family Practice: School papers that I used to knowWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
My first child was born around the same time as mainstream digital photography. He was only a month or two old before we made the leap to pixelated pictures and never looked back. While I’m more than appreciative to have waved goodbye to buying and developing rolls of film forever, I sometimes wish we would have leaped about six months earlier. Those first few precious weeks of my son’s life still sit un-digitized in a plastic storage container somewhere in our basement. I have a feeling I will one day kick around similar disappointment regarding the mixed formats of my children’s school work.
In my long, yet-to-be-recorded list of musts for new parents, I should no doubt include a warning to have a paper plan before your first child starts school. I was, in fact, aware of the paper flood that accompanies the academic years before my oldest entered elementary, but I foolishly figured I would take it as it came. Perhaps it was still my naiveté, or perhaps it was that I was also wrapped up in parenting a toddler and producing child number three, but I apparently threw just about anything that came home into a seemingly bottomless tribute-to-kindergarten pit.
Busyness aside, I’m honestly just not that great at deciding what to toss and what to keep for posterity’s sake when it comes to school papers. I’ve resorted to asking my parenting peers how they balance the ongoing paper surge with finding the pieces special enough to have and to hold from this day forward. Opinions range from keeping most of it from year to year to dumping the whole lot on a daily basis. I surely want to keep some of it, but I realize that keeping too much just doesn’t make sense.
Now that I have two children in elementary school with the third starting preschool this fall, I am finding that having more than one or two kids makes saving things space-and-sanity-prohibitive rather quickly. I am also somewhat mentally crippled by the fact that I saved most everything from my son’s kindergarten year but had wised up a bit by the time my daughter had entered kindergarten. Considering they will both fight tooth and nail to ensure the equality in something as nondescript as a glass of water, I’m quite frightened by the long-term consequence of accidentally throwing away one’s 100 Days of School crown and not the other’s. Such a simple mistake might go unnoticed now but come back to bellow at me with contempt in, say, 2032.
Of course, what I also need to recognize is that there are boxes upon boxes of my own academic and arts-and-crafts history in the depths of my parents’ home a few miles away. Yet I have little desire to excavate them to reminisce and, thankfully, zero interest in comparing them to my siblings’ stash for rivalry purposes. I suspect that as I meander through my golden years I will still have a greater interest in recalling my own children’s little handprints and first attempts at letter formation than I will my own.
In light of the fact that all of these material memories will most likely remain in my care for some time, I should probably keep the stockpile as simple as possible. After kids come grandkids, and then we’re talking serious possible exponential plastic storage tub growth. Actually, it is the sight of Mount Plastic Storage Tub that makes me long for the day, hopefully not too far down the road, when the school paper flood will turn into more of a digital affair.
We are no doubt moving into the age of the digital backpack, but we’re currently still in mixed-format limbo. Will I eventually not have to “know” which papers to keep for future sentimental reference because so few will come home? Will I continue to struggle with picking and choosing electronic documentation of my children’s academic achievements? Will I one day hold onto those last treasured reminders of pre-digitized elementary education even tighter? Will my children care in the least?
Surprisingly, my hope is that the material side of school will slow to a best-of-the-best-only trickle with the hundreds of yearly worksheets finding their way to a tablet computer or other electronic medium. As is clearly evidenced by the TV show “Hoarders” and others of its kind, an overabundance of worldly possessions, even school papers, is not our finest quality as a society. After all, it is the feeling of cumulative pride in and love for our children as they triumph that we need to grab onto and never let go.
Shannon Szyperski and her husband Michael are raising three children in Sylvania.