I read Madeline Holler’s essay, Growing Up Without A Baby Book: Is that A Bad Thing? with great interest.
I had just written my own confessional of sorts detailing the massive guilt I’ve suffered each day I let go by without really chronicling my newborn son’s life.
Holler talks about how free from the shackles of baby bookdom she felt after reading Jessica Grose’s essay over at Slate about going through her childhood mementos.
As she perused the box of keepsakes, Slate had a hard time reconciling her adult self with her teenage self and writes about how tossing all those childhood mementos her mother had collected over the years helped her move on.
Better to let the kids live out their years with the pretty revised version of their childhoods in mind. By neglecting the scraps of their history, I’m saving them even a small amount of pain and embarrassment. Which, unlike “empty babybooks,” puts a big fat check-mark over on the “good mom” score sheet.
And now I can let it go.
As much as I would LOVE to let it go, I can’t. As I mentioned in my own essay, perhaps journaling and collecting mementos is encoded in my (recovering) Mormon DNA. Mormons are encouraged by church leaders to keep a journal from the time they can write. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a record of life. It’s a huge part of why I blog. To leave something behind. How I would’ve loved it if my mom had journals documenting her time in junior high, high school, marriage, divorce…
Baby books hold a similar meaning for me. They tell my child that I loved him or her and that what they did – even the little things – were a big deal to me.
I don’t look back on the scraps of paper, school assignments and love notes I wrote my mom with embarrassment. Most of it is simply hilarious. It’s who I was and who I was is an important part of who I am. I like to own that.
But if, like Grose, my Violet wants to trash the record of her life that I am choosing to keep, so be it. But at least she’ll do it knowing her mama valued all the little things she did. And in the end, maybe it’s more about me than her. Maybe, discovering what I chose to keep from her life will tell her a lot more than I could ever say with words.