I have worked out the reason (well, one of them) why my house is a permanent bombsite. Artwork. Of course, we’re not talking Turner prize-worthy fine art here, but rather, the five-year-old variety. And my goodness, how it spreads.
Once upon a time, The Boy had next to no interest in matters creative. I actually used to envy the mums who got presented with a masterpiece or three every day after school. I even used to send The Boy into his classroom in the morning with suggestions of what he could make or draw for me – not that he ever bothered.
Oh, how foolish I was.
Suddenly, it seems The Boy has found his creative side. In some ways, this is a positive new development; after all, if his moment of artistic inspiration coincides with The Baby’s nap, I get a blissful half-hour’s peace and quiet. But our house isn’t big enough to cope with all his masterpieces. Not when he’s churning them out at a rate of five an hour. I have a feeling Van Gogh wasn’t quite that prolific…
So just what do you do with your child’s artwork? Okay, sometimes it’s an easy decision to make; I have no guilt about accidentally sweeping the piece of paper bearing a random scribble or a couple of crooked stickers into the recycling bin, under cover of an old magazine or two. But when The Boy has put some real effort into a picture, a painting or a model, it feels downright mean to send it straight off to landfill. Yet we don’t have the wallspace to accommodate every work of art he produces, and while I have good intentions about starting a memory box for the best pieces, in reality, they’re all stacked up on top of the microwave, getting more crumpled by the day. I’ll admit my heart sank when he came home from school on the last day of term with a huge sugar paper folder of his year’s work. I know, I know – how mean is that?
Disclaimer: I’m not *that* mean. I haven’t thrown any of it away. It’s still sitting on the lounge floor, waiting for me to find somewhere to put it.
When we decorated The Boy’s bedroom, pre-baby, we bought three big magnetic noticeboards to go on his wall. The theory was that he could proudly display his artwork there (and thereby liberate my kitchen walls). But this was at a time when we were lucky if he made one picture a week – not one an hour. He ran out of board space within a week, and as yet, my attempts to convince him to replace old work with new have fallen on deaf ears.
It’s not just the art itself that contributes to the chaos in our house; it’s the art equipment, too. I swear colouring pencils seem to breed around here. Then there are the stickers, the googly eyes, the half-filled notebooks, the pencil shavings spewed out by a leaky sharpener, the empty boxes that have to be kept in case of future junk modelling, the minute offcuts of paper which so successfully evade the vacuum cleaner… Only last week, I lost my patience with my kitchen table being inadvertently drawn on and confiscated all the felt tips. It didn’t work; The Boy found the paints instead.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m too ruthless with The Boy’s artwork. I’m no domestic goddess, but I do like to keep the house relatively tidy (as far as is possible with two young children – i.e., not very), and even though I know I’m throwing out the stuff of which memories are made, it’s oh so tempting to instantly restore order by neatly filing the week’s artwork in the paper bin. I’ve taken to hiding his creations in the understairs cupboard; if a week elapses without him missing them, I feel justified in recycling them.
The ones that get me, though, are the pictures which are accompanied by messages. As I type, I’ve just been presented with a drawing of a mouse, around which The Boy has written, ‘To Mummy do you like my picture,’ plus a large pink sugar paper card with a homemade stamp and the message, ‘To Mummy I love you.’ How can I possibly throw those away?
One of these days, I’ll think up a brilliant way to preserve The Boy’s artwork while also maintaining some sense of order in the house. But for now, it looks like I’m resigned to living with a gallery of overlapping drawings blu-tacked to the kitchen cupboard, a pile of pictures and messages on the wooden chest that serves as my desk, and an egg-box triceratops perched on top of the coffee machine.
Still, it could be worse; at least The Baby isn’t old enough to contribute to the artwork mountain.