Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Paper Discernment

The other day, I was told that I made one of my children spill. It seemed remarkable, as we were not in the same room together when the spill occurred. Clearly, I have more power than I give myself credit for.

When the phone rang during the school day this past week, and I saw a school number, I hoped my omnipotence would not desert me. One of my children was calling to see if that stack of papers—the papers that no longer fit in the binder—was still somewhere around the house. I must confess, I had been told to throw the papers away, but like a really great empty shoe box, I couldn’t do it. 

One of the tasks of the final grading period is often paper discernment. Should it stay or should it go? Yes, if I had recycled that stack of papers, the consequences would have been very natural. But at some level, as a parent you know that you will get to share the consequences that way, and to be honest, this can be a deterrent, depending on the toll the other demands of the day have taken. The truth is that I was joyful when I was able to pull the broken binder, containing the missing papers needed for the conference portfolio, from its hiding place. It wasn’t really hiding; there just wasn’t a category for papers of that type of undetermined future.
In the role of parent, there are delicate, ever-changing lines. Where do you let your kids determine their own outcome, and where do you dart in, sometimes unseen, and run (hopefully) proactive interference? I think it depends as much on us as it does on them.  When we know better, it is tempting to act on what we know.  On this day, I was able to turn crumpled, cast-off paper into a late birthday gift...for both of us.  

Stacy Abena

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