Well, OK – they aren’t really out in the world at large diving in real dumpsters. It’s not that bad.
But one time they did come in from playing out front with a 5-pound hand weight they found at the neighbor’s curb in the trash.
“Mom, can we keep this? They were throwing it away.”
Incredulous voices. As if it were made of diamonds or something.
Most of the dumpster diving is really kitchen-trashcan-diving, if I’m being accurate.
I’m not new to surreptitious trips to the trashcan, while they are busy taking baths and cannot see me, pushing those school papers all the way to the bottom of the recycle bin. These spy missions are absolutely necessary because my children seem to believe that I hold onto everything they have ever produced forever and ever because it’s precious and unique. They would be crushed to know how much stuff I throw out after they go to bed.
Including baby teeth.
Ewww. If I don’t keep their school artwork, I’m sure the hell not going to keep their biological leavings. No, I didn’t save anyone’s cord-stump nor do I save baby teeth. And if I have a lock of their baby hair, that’s probably just because it was pulled out ruthlessly by a sister and shoved somewhere that hasn’t been cleaned since then.
It was bad enough that I had to scheme to throw out the school papers in their backpacks, but now it’s gotten worse. Nowadays, I can’t seem to throw anything out without them right there over my shoulder saying “Can I have that?”
I say “It’s an empty peanut butter jar. What do you want it for?”
(Or a paper towel roll, or a plastic milk carton, or some bubble wrap from a package delivery, or whatever. Just anything.)
They say “We want to make something with it. ”
I really appreciate their creative spirits. Truly I do. But a bid to ‘make something with it’ is 6 year old code for I will leave a trail of marker caps and stuck-together pieces of scotch tape and broken and tangled up rubber bands the like of which you have never seen.
I’ve been down this road before.
So anytime I have something to throw away, I nonchalantly look from left to right. I stop and listen. Do I have 45 seconds to get this thing hidden under the banana peels? Oh god, what if they want to make something with the banana peels???
When the coast is clear, I dash for the trash and bury it under whatever I think is the least likely to catch their eyes as necessary for some harebrained creation.
Sometimes, I’m even successful.
Saturday, I was throwing the empty couscous container in the recycle. My 9 year old asked “Can I have that?”
Oh, god, here we go.
I sighed, resigned to scraping Elmer’s glue dyed with food coloring off the breakfast bar, and handed it over to her.
She was up in her bedroom for more than an hour. She had covered the container with a paper label she made herself. It had a picture of a kitty cat and paw-prints all over it. It said DOT AND PUDDY’S TREATS.
“We’re going to Amber’s tomorrow to give her her birthday presents, right?” Amber is the big sister – who is turning 26 tomorrow. (Happy Birthday, Amber!!)
“Yes, we are.” I reply.
“Can you help me buy some cat treats? I made this for her birthday to hold treats for her cats.”
So we did. And Sunday, my creative girl gave her big sister an old couscous container with a custom-label and a bag of treats for Dot and Puddy.
I’m pretty sure it was Amber’s favorite birthday present. Which, what the hell, because I spent a LOT more on what I picked out, but whatever. Ungrateful kids. Right?
Later that night, I told my husband about the gift made from the old container. I said “Isn’t that sweet? I suppose this is why we let them pick through the trash, huh?”
He said “Well, that and because we know that with these skills we are helping them hone, they’ll be uniquely positioned to survive if society collapses.”
Yeah, I guess there’s that too.
My babies are dumpster-divers, and if the world as we know it falls apart, I can rest assured that in spite of the chaos, they will still have a nice pencil-holder made from an empty 1-liter Dr. Pepper bottle.
That’s good parenting.