Yesterday I did something that would make a more sentimental mother wince: I threw away the “Certificate of Achievement” that my daughter brought home from school. It was given in recognition of her attaining status on the High Honor Roll at her middle school. While I am immensely proud of her achievement, I’m not so much a collector of certificates—achievement or otherwise.
I know that there are those mothers who cherish that sort of thing. They display them in frames or use them in scrapbooks or wallpaper the powder room with them. I’m not that kind of mom. I’m the kind of mom who responds with a genuine smile and a congratulatory high-five. I’m the kind of mom who might even display the certificate on the fridge (until it’s time for the weekly rotation, of course). Sometimes I’m even the kind of mom who will offer a sweet treat—a cookie or Tootsie Roll—as a reward. But I’m not the kind of mom who saves every last scrap of paper as documented proof that my kid is special.
Here’s the thing: I know my kid is special. The last thing I need is some dime-a-dozen, fill-in-the-blank certificate taking up valuable space in a house already overflowing with stuff. Don’t get me wrong; there are some things worth saving. A lock of hair from the first haircut, for instance. Handwritten letters that drip with childhood innocence. Oh, and teeth. For some reason, I just can’t bring myself to get rid of them. I have enough baby teeth in my top dresser drawer to build a whole village of model igloos. These are the treasures I choose to hang on to—the mementos I can’t bear to part with. School certificates and every. single. drawing to come home in the backpack? Not even close.
Each of my four children has a plastic storage bin on the tippy top shelf of his or her closet. Within those bins are their respective baby books, meaningful birthday cards they’ve been given over the years, and yes, you guessed it, little blonde locks of hair clipped years ago. Once—maybe twice—each year I indulge them by pulling those bins from the shelves and sitting with them in a cozy corner, reminiscing about their babyhood days and how far they’ve each come since. Among those memories, there are—admittedly—a few awards, but mostly only those significant enough to have warranted a plaque or something more permanent than a fill-in-the-blank certificate. And because I’ve only saved the best of the best, each and every keepsake stored in those bins holds meaning.
I may never be accused of being too sentimental. But I can tell you with certainty that no stinkin’ piece of paper—whether an award or a diploma—will ever change what I already know to be true. That is, my kids are smart and funny. Genuine and kind. Unique and resourceful. Rock stars each one—certificate or not.