Darcie Maranich

 

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.

(1) comment

John J Flanagan

I suppose every parent will handle it differently. It does depend, to some extent, on the sensitivity of the child who received the certificate. Some kids don't care if Mommy reads it and places it into the garbage can. Others might be offended, thinking that you are not recognizing their achievement as having any value. Psychology is a complex area, but the truth is that all children are always watching Mom and Dad's actions, reactions, opinions, choice of words, control or lack of self control, degree of affection or encouragement, and so on. Our children study us continually in early childhood. Some develop reactive behavior, like lack of neatness in defiance of our demands for order, or an opposite tendency if we as parents are not particularly neat. On the other hand, the kids will often emulate our behavior and some of their thinking and values are so deep in the subconscious that they can no longer understand their origin, but some of these tendencies came from their interaction with us, their parents. As I have gotten older, I have learned that a child brings home a certificate of achievement and really wants a pat on the head, even if they do not admit it. Afterwards, the certificate can be saved for awhile, then discarded when it is old news. Again, each parent must base this on their own individual child's need for reaffirmation or depending on their sense of security and confidence. That is my opinion, and there is no right or wrong answer, I suppose.

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