As a long-time professional parent, something you must learn to deal with is ART. Children, in their preschool and elementary years, bring home copious loads of ART to share with you, Their Art Appreciator. We are talking anything from some tornado-looking crayon scribbles on a scrap of construction paper (maybe even with a teacher-transcribed title like, “Fighter Rats Eating Super Guys”) to wobbly unidentifiable ceramic items to pasted pastel ponies with long black girly eyelashes. The art keeps coming and coming and coming and coming, until you have a dilemma. There is no room left on the fridge or walls of the playroom, and you have already sent off a bunch to Grandma too, but you still have ART, more than you can find places for.With my first child, I treated every single creation he brought home like a museum treasure. I even ordered a special kids’ art storage thing, but that got filled up fast.

The day came. I had to throw away some of my kid’s art. I confess it.

Oh, it was painful. I was the sole curator to this family museum and the decisions were agonizing. I spread my son’s artistic efforts all around me on the playroom floor, knowing that some of them had to go. They had to. My own paper problems were enough to cause my husband to refer to the kitchen table as “the flat file.” So, OK. I guess the generic art goes first – the projects that all the kids did pretty much the exact same way, like green and red paper Christmas wreathes with gold spray-painted macaroni embellishments. I opened the trash bag, looked around guiltily to make sure my son was not around to see my shame, and 1994’s Wreath was history. Oh, man. Just writing that still makes me feel bad now.

But my heart had to art-harden, with the output from three children. It became easier to toss things, still out of sight of the artist that was getting the boot, of course. I would keep some pieces for awhile, admire them, then usually during the Desperate House Clean-Up Before The Real Cleaner Comes I would stuff them in a wastebasket and think of efficiency. I save enough to keep some nice memories for the kids if they ever wanted to look back on their youth. It is probably just going to be sentimental me though, 90 years old in some barred-window apartment, smiling away at a 55-year-old drawing of a dancing cow standing on the roof of a red barn.

My middle child, Mr11, brought home very little art compared to Couch Teen and the manically-art-prolific MissSix. Drawing was uncomfortable for him, and after a wild run of drawing these little cars when he was two, he pretty much refused to do any art for a very long time. He seemed sad and self-conscious about his efforts. Handwriting was very difficult for him as well, which of course impacted how he felt about being in school in general. Trying to give him a fun and safe way back into art and hoping to also strengthen his hand, I enrolled him in a local Monart course, which is a very directed method of drawing that gets quick and impressive results for kids and adults. Some would say it teaches people to produce only one style of art, and someone else’s vision. But the value was beautifully evident to me when after that first day of class little MrNoDraw came out, beaming a great big smile and waving the loveliest drawing of a penguin I ever saw. That class helped him to realize that he could do art and do it well, and much more importantly, that he could enjoy it.

Fast forward many years to today, nearing the end of the school year. I see Mr11 carrying a brightly-painted box that he made in art class:

Don’t tell Couch Teen or MissSix, but this one is never getting thrown out, ever. As a matter of fact, I here decree that I would like my eventual ashes to remain for all time in this container.

Best thing ever, from the least-likely artist.