An on-going battle in my life (or is it just in my mind?) is my love-hate feelings toward baby books. I love the idea of them — all that information, those little slips of paper, the cute photos — neatly arranged in a simple, decorative book, which I can flip through once my nest is truly empty.
The hate part is the actual assembly of said books. I’ve got three kids and .5 books ready for perusal. I’ve got the contents, of course, in the form of a growing stack of unmarked, undated papers and photos, envelopes of hair — the knowledge of whom any of it belongs to fading as each day/month/year goes by without me properly archiving any of it.
I feel a tremendous amount of guilt about the stacks, the empty (and, for my youngest, as-yet unpurchased) books. I’m kind of an information collector, and I want to do right by my kids in case they become hoarders, uh, info collectors, too.
But I feel a little less compelled to deal with it after reading Jessica Grose’s essay over at Slate about going through her childhood momentos. Her parents were moving from a suburban home to a city apartment and the house needed to be cleared out. Grose’s mom said she wanted everything out, including all those meaningful bits from the time Grose was three, which the very organized mother had carefully cataloged over the years. It must have taken quite a bit of effort. But guess what happened to it all?
Tossed. Into the trash. And with her archiving mother’s blessings!
Just thinking about the amount of effort put into collecting a keeping these things only to be pushed down deep into a Hefty bag hurts my head. One reason I’ve had so little success in keeping up with the baby books, etc., is that there’s so much else to do. To waste all that time? Unthinkable.
Grose gives me another perfect reason to abandon it all, in that reliving it all can be uncomfortable, if not painful. She writes of sifting through her memories:
Seeing myself try so hard to be someone I wasn’t—a common pastime among 17-year-olds—was surprisingly painful. This archive had no power when it was safely ensconced in the bright white confines of my childhood bedroom. But when I actually had to sit down and reconcile my teenage self with my adult one, I realized I wasn’t quite as archly removed from that scared adolescent as I wanted to be. I still recognized myself in that Contempo-clad striver, and I didn’t like what I saw.
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.
What’s the state of your kids’ baby books/scrapbooks/scrap buckets/scrap stacks?
Photo: zaui Scot Catron via Flickr