I was having coffee with a bunch of 'mum friends' recently when the conversation turned to memory boxes - those lovingly assembled collections of keepsake items and treasured possessions which every other mum I know seems to have stored away for her kids.
I stirred my coffee studiously and stared at my feet, hoping no one would ask about my children's memory boxes. Why? Because this is yet another fad of modern motherhood which I've managed to fail at.
And it's not just memory boxes either, here are 10 things which I have singularly failed to do to mark my children's babyhood:
1. Had a cast made of my pregnant belly.
2. Had casts made of my babies' newborn hands and feet.
Sorry, but tiny disembodied limbs? Creepy.
3. Completed a baby book.
Is it wrong to consider making up the details that I've forgotten?
4. Made a memory box of childhood mementos.
I wish I was this kind of mum, I really do.
5. Printed photo albums.
I did print tons of pictures once. About six years ago. They're in a box. Does that count as a memory box?
6. Had baby clothes made into a keepsake cuddly toy.
Lovely idea. I can barely keep up with the laundry though, never mind get this organised.
7. Collect baby teeth in a special silver box.
8. Ditto locks of hair.
Again, for what possible purpose?
9. Written letters to each of my kids.
Every day. In my heart. Not always fit to print.
10. Lovingly stored and displayed all their childhood artwork.
Sorry kids, but even if I had the time there just isn't enough wall space in all the world.
I don't even know where my children's baby teeth are - probably lurking at the bottom of my knicker drawer or somewhere equally gross - and at least one baby tooth is Missing In Action after I forgot where I put it whilst stealthily trying to avoid being unmasked as the Tooth Fairy.
I also haven't filled in the children's baby books properly (OK, the third child doesn't even HAVE a baby book and she's already nine months old) and I haven't stored away a memory box of meaningful trinkets for my kids to inherit on their 21st birthdays.
But at least I'm in good company.
"I really wish I'd done all this stuff, and I feel guilty and a little bit of a failure for not doing so," admits my friend and mum of three Michaela. "But life keeps moving on and I have to keep moving to keep up!"
Exactly. So I refuse to feel guilty about this. There's already way too much pressure piled on mums without us berating ourselves for not ticking all these boxes too.
Yes, I'll admit to feeling a little bit inadequate when friends talk about the keepsake cuddly toys they've had custom-made from offcuts of their favourite bits of their children's baby clothes. But seriously, are our kids even going to care about this stuff?
I suspect not.
My mum recently moved house and passed on various bits of paraphernalia from my childhood; my old school tie, a favourite T-shirt, and a couple of items of baby clothing which I am looking forward to dressing my little girl in.
But it was more a perfunctory passing on of things, not some ceremonial rite of passage. And I'm grateful for that because, frankly, had she handed me a box containing my first lock of hair and all my baby teeth, I'd have had no clue what to do with it. I reckon by the time my lads are grown-ups they'll be even more non-plussed by a box of their old baby bits.
My seven year old son wears an old T-shirt of mine which my Mum kept, and I do get a kick out of seeing my kid wearing something I so vividly remember wearing when I was his age, but it's no big deal. It's just a T-shirt, and when he outgrows it I reckon we'll donate it to the charity shop, not package it away for another 30 years just so that his kids can say they're wearing Granny's cast-offs. Because wouldn't that just be weird?
Or am I the weird one?
I do worry that my kids are missing out by having a mum who doesn't 'do' memory boxes and all that memento-keeping stuff, but maybe I'm just not the sentimental type. And I think my kids will put more store in whether I pay attention when they show me their latest Lego creation, than in whether I've saved their milk teeth or kept their baby bootees.
My lads laugh at the shoes they used to wear but they'd rather talk about how soon they can get new school shoes or football boots than listen to me lament about how cute their tiny toes once were.
At some level this is just a case of sour grapes, of course, and inwardly I do aspire to be the kind of mum who aces all this stuff. But I have a hard enough time staying connected to the present and fighting the perpetual distractions that pull me away from being in the moment with my kids, without adding to the seemingly endless list of Things I Ought To Do.
"Often as parents we're snapping photos more than we're actually enjoying the experience," agrees Sarah, mum of two. "I feel less guilty about not doing all this stuff by reminding myself of the value of being present in the moment - instead of constantly trying to observe and record every little detail of my children's lives."
So I'm not going to give myself a hard time for not spending my kids' childhood treasuring and collecting the things that they've outgrown.
Instead, I'm going to throw myself wholeheartedly into celebrating who they are and cherishing, more intentionally, what they're into now. I reckon that's a far more valuable gift than any memory box.
More on Parentdish: How many childhood mementoes are worth keeping?
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