Sheila Sybrant

Interesting fact about me: I saved every piece of paper that my children brought home from primary school.

If you think this is one of those statements for the game “Two Truths and a Lie,” you’re wrong. There is no artifice here. I assure you that my statement is the truth.

I have a 30-plus-quart plastic storage container for each of my two children for each year of elementary school. Each container holds all of the kids’ math, science and language arts worksheets, essays, art projects, doodles and other papers from a particular year of school.

You might be wondering why — and that’s a valid question. Even some of my friends think I went a tad overboard.

It didn’t really start as a preplanned thing.

Part of it had to do with the fact that my collection of papers from my own childhood is paltry. My parents weren’t savers and kept only my report cards. No art projects, no notes in my handwriting, no reports about animals. I have some things that I saved when I was about junior high age, but when you’re young, you don’t really think about saving your own schoolwork.

The other part had to do with the fact that when my first child started school, each paper she brought home seemed wonderful and momentous to me. As she grew older and then my second child came along and I kept saving papers, I recognized that not all of the saved items were necessarily keepers — but I wasn’t ready to make decisions about throwing anything away.

After my kids were grown and no longer lived at home, I started sorting through the boxes, an ongoing project that predated the pandemic but that has been ramped up not because I have more time now (I have worked at home for years and that hasn’t changed) but because I feel some need to keep up with all of the people I know who are using their time at home to “Marie Kondo” their lives.

I have found several good reasons to wait to sort through those papers.

First, memories have limits. You might think you can remember everything that has ever happened in your kids’ lives, but, well, probably not.

Going through the papers reminds me about things like field trips, AR points, timed tests for math, name placards for desks and bulletin boards, and punch cards for homework. The many papers that I signed saying that I read a story to my child or that my child read a story to me or that we did a puzzle together bring back memories about the enjoyable times we spent doing schoolwork together.

Second, any paper in which a child was asked to write a paragraph or an essay gives insight into your child’s thoughts and feelings at the time. Reading about a child’s favorite gift or vacation might not seem that special at the time; but years after they were written, they are an irreplaceable way to remember the impact that we as parents had on our children’s lives.

Going through those plastic boxes has been a time-consuming cleaning project, and it definitely would have been easier to take care of it at the time. But here’s another interesting fact about me: I would do it all over again.

This also is not a statement for the game “Two Truths and a Lie.” There is no artifice here. I would definitely do it all over again.

Readers may contact Sheila at svsybrant@gmail.com or 45092 859th Road, Bassett, NE 68714.

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