But It’s a Mas­ter­piece!

I couldn’t bear to part with even one doo­dle, paint swoosh, or col­lage cre­ated by my wildly artis­tic kid. Sound fa­mil­iar?

Parents (USA) - - Contents - By CANDY SCHULMAN / pho­to­graph by DANE TASHIMA

How to be a ded­i­cated pa­tron of your child’s art­work with­out let­ting it take over your home

MY DAUGH­TER was in preschool only three hours a week, yet she was a pro­lific pain­ter. Swim­ming in an over­size smock, barely able to reach the blank pa­per on the easel, Amy at­tacked the can­vas, wield­ing fat brushes with the prow­ess of an ex­u­ber­ant tod­dler. The re­sults were ab­stract, of course, and al­ways blue.

“It’s her Blue Pe­riod,” I boasted to friends as they sti­fled yawns, po­litely ex­am­in­ing the art I had taped to ev­ery inch of wall at home.

“Like Pi­casso!” I gushed to her preschool teacher.

“No,” the pa­tient teacher ex­plained. Turns out the rea­son my tiny vir­tu­oso was churn­ing out one blue work af­ter an­other was be­cause she only put out blue paint. “They are so lit­tle, they can’t han­dle color choices,” she said, ar­dently adding, “Next month we in­tro­duce red.”

All right, so maybe my kid wasn’t go­ing to have a onewoman show at the Na­tional Gallery of Art be­fore she was potty trained. But I, her most de­voted fan, ap­plauded ev­ery time she ar­rived home with a pile of paint­ings. Some crit­ics might see ran­dom brush strokes, but I saw a per­fect bal­ance of com­po­si­tion, shapes, and tex­ture. In ev­ery monochro­matic paint­ing.

My squirmy kid’s art ca­reer be­gan be­fore screens were the ob­vi­ous an­swer to keep­ing kids busy in restau­rants. I brought crayons to keep her happy in her high chair so that

we could have five min­utes to gob­ble down a meal be­fore her whim­pers turned into shat­ter­ing screeches. Amy’s fa­vorite place had brown­pa­per ta­ble cov­ers she could draw on—which ex­plains why there are now crayon etch­ings on my din­ing ta­ble.

Then came preschool. Dozens of one-of-a-kind mas­ter­pieces turned into hun­dreds. We didn’t know where to put them in our cramped two-bed­room place in New York City. Be­hind the stereo speak­ers. Next to our bed. Un­der our bed. I rolled up countless paint­ings and stuffed them into my closet. “You’ve got to get rid of some,” my hus­band in­sisted, re­fus­ing to rent a stor­age space.

Even the grand­moth­ers in Florida begged us to stop send­ing so many. “I have no more room on my fridge,” Grandma Sylvia apol­o­gized. There were some even I didn’t care for. “My Fam­ily,” crafted at age 3. Splotches of color float­ing in space. “That’s Daddy,” Amy called the huge pur­ple ex­plo­sion. “Grammy,” she iden­ti­fied a smaller yel­lowand-blue pat­tern. Point­ing to a tiny gray dot on the bot­tom right: “That’s you, Mommy.”

Me? All those years of be­ing a pa­tron of the arts for a mini per­son and that’s all I am?—a mi­cro­scopic gray speck on the tail end of the uni­verse? The next day, Amy sud­denly la­beled Daddy as the in­signif­i­cant spot, and I was over­joyed to be el­e­vated to a large pur­ple blob. I re­warded her with ice cream for dessert.

Slowly, I be­came braver about par­ing down paint­ings. One mother sug­gested I furtively throw a few of them out in the dark of night when Amy was asleep. An­other time, I thought I was clever by crum­pling a draw­ing and “hid­ing” it in my bath­room waste­bas­ket. Hours later, Amy ap­peared, tear­fully grip­ping the gem I’d dis­carded like a dust bunny.

“I found this in the garbage, Mommy.” She looked heart­bro­ken. “Why?”

“Hmm ... I don’t know. Maybe it was—” Dare I falsely ac­cuse Daddy? Fee­bly, I pressed the edges, as­sur­ing her it was even more beau­ti­ful than the 20 other por­traits of red-haired princesses she’d drawn that week.

Amy be­gan reg­u­larly comb­ing the trash, giv­ing me sus­pi­cious side glances while rum­mag­ing for ev­i­dence that I’d thrown away more “ob­jets d’art.” So I lugged home large plas­tic boxes and placed her cre­ations in­side, though I would still furtively eighty-six some while she was asleep, dream­ing of moth­ers who could be trusted. But ev­ery time I took a stash to the garbage, I still grieved a lit­tle.

Pi­casso said it took him “a life­time to paint like a child.” I wanted to hold on to Amy’s pre­cious un­self-con­scious child­hood cre­ativ­ity—even if it was turn­ing me into a hoarder.

By the time she was 5, Amy pre­ferred mark­ers to paint. A girl in a pur­ple dress with pig­tails and painted nails, stand­ing next to a flower as tall as she was. “You and me, Mommy. We’re walk­ing to school. We love each other.”

I hugged the pic­ture. And the next 40 that ar­rived home the fol­low­ing week.

“I draw pic­tures of you, Mommy,” Amy said, “be­cause I want to be like you when I grow up.” How could I throw any of them away? There must be room some­where ... ah yes, I think there’s a few more inches of space in the linen closet. Who needs ex­tra tow­els any­way?

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