Apart from the silver cup my godparents gave me at my Christening and a photo of me with my family when I was three, I don’t have any mementos of my childhood. Being the seventh of eight kids, I think my parents were well and truly over collecting and cataloguing the childhood journey by the time I arrived. When I vowed to do more as a parent to faithfully preserve everything my kids created, I obviously had no idea of the sheer volume of artwork one child can produce in a single day.
There is a routine I now have in place for dealing with Frances’ accumulated artwork. On Tuesday morning, when I drop her off at Kinder, I find that all of her artwork from the previous week has been loaded by forklift into her pigeon hole. As I am leaving Kinder I collect this artwork and, because it is so special, instruct a team of labourers to lay it out in the back of my car rather than simply dump it all straight in the bin. The rule is if it is still there on Sunday it is lovingly and respectfully disposed of in the recycling waste bin down the side of the house.
It wasn’t always like this. I used to agonise over throwing out anything one of the girls had created. Not only were my own office walls plastered with various paintings and collages, but also the walls of every single colleague in my office – until they politely but firmly told me to stop. Susie and I then created a wall at home dedicated to sticking up whatever Maisie or Frances created until it grew at least a foot thick and posed a very real and immediate health and safety hazard.
Next was to try a range of different paper-binding techniques to create telephone-book-sized almanacs that we could pass on to polite and unsuspecting relatives. But it wasn’t long before everyone we knew had at least one of these door-stopper volumes of artistic musings, and no-one was gullible enough to accept a second. Still terrified that the Gods of Good Parenting would strike me down if I threw anything away, I resorted to filling boxes with the artwork and storing them in the shed.
In the end it all became too much. Between what Maisie was producing at school, Frances was creating at Kinder and what the two of them churned out on the weekends there was nowhere left to store anything. It was time to get ruthless. Figuring that I already had a shoe box filled with such items as their hospital tags, the little clips that went on their navels and a lock of their hair from their first hair cuts, I didn’t see the need to continue to retain every scrap of paper unless it passed the “Unbearably Cute” test.
Not only were my own office walls plastered with various paintings and collages, but also the walls of every single colleague in my office – until they politely but firmly told me to stop.
So a new regime was instituted. Any of Frances’ artwork that remains in the car until the Sunday clean-out gets chucked; Maisie is now responsible for scrap-booking any pieces of her own work she wants to keep; while everything else not Blu-Tacked to a surface is thrown out during the Tuesday night house straightening. This weekly purge requires an iron will that is free from sentimentality. So far, the only drawings to pass the Unbearably Cute test are a sketch Maisie made of her dream cubby house under the self penned heading “My Cubi Has” and a drawing by Frances of me pregnant with triplets.
How do you manage the unending influx of irreplaceable artwork generated by your kids? When it comes to mementoes of your kids childhood, are you a cherisher or a chucker? Discuss Joseph's blog.