Oh Christ. I take a deep breath and slowly move my eyes to the piece of paper in front of my two year old son, who is looking up at me expectantly, biro poised between his fingers. On the paper are swirls and swirls of black lines that occasionally break into frantic areas of tight, angry scribbles. If this drawing had been done in an art therapy class, the tutor’s hand would slowly be moving toward the panic button concealed under the desk round about now.
“Lovely, darling,” I lie.
“It’s a cave.”
Of course it is.
“And there’s the lion.” He points to an area of scribble.
“Oh yes,” I say. “Is that another lion over there?” I point to a similar area of scribble.
“No mummy, silly. It’s a monster.” He looks at me as if I am an idiot. It’s an expression I see quite a lot from my son.
Well pardon me for not knowing my scribbles from my scrawls. You see, I am all for encouraging creative expression in my kids, it’s an essential part of their development, it encourages them to look at the world afresh, blah pencil blah crayon blah. And I am even quite happy to lie to their faces, telling them that the hasty daubs of thick, shit-brown paint that they have managed to plop onto the paper are quite lovely. (And exactly what the hell is it about my kids and paint? I give them four distinct colours and four paintbrushes. I turn my back for one minute to give my retinas a rest from what they are doing, and suddenly, they have four pots of paints the colour of dog shit.) But just don’t ask me to like their creations. Or pin them on the fridge. I mean, it’s one thing to pretend that my son’s latest masterpiece, seemingly created by randomly dropping felt tips onto the paper from a great height, is good. But don’t make me look at it every day.
Not loving my sons’ artistic endeavours does not mean I love them any less. No, I leave that for when they have a strop in public. The way I see it, they are practising. My two year old still sometimes holds a pen in his fist as if he is going to stab someone (and given his propensity to get the hump at the drop of a felt tip pen, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility) so I don’t expect him to have quite mastered cross hatching and stippling just yet. But I don’t need to keep their practises. After all, if I was shopping for a vacuum, I wouldn’t seek out one of James Dyson’s early prototypes. ‘Yes please, I’ll take the one with bits of sellotape all over it and a motor that unexpectedly blows crap all over my lounge carpet if it’s left on too long.” No. I want the one when he has finished practising. The one that look nice and works like it bloody should.
I used to despair about the tsunami of artwork that would pour into the house from nursery. When my son’s carer would say ‘we have collected all his work for you to take home’ my heart would sink to my boots. But, I soon realised, there is hope. This is exactly what the council introduced recycling for. I leave the latest drawings proudly on the kitchen table from when they arrive home, but once the boys are safely tucked up in bed, I escort the heinous attempt at drawing a flower – or perhaps it is a car, I can’t remember – to the recycling bin. If I am dealing with many pictures, the strategy is to take one or two each evening whilst slowly moving the remaining pile from the centre of the table, to the side of the table, then carefully placing the newspaper or post over them so that they forget they even existed and Operation Artwork Extraction can begin in earnest. But the key thing here is to take the picture to the bin and bury it deep. Really deep. Because you only need to be caught out once leaving your son’s drawing near the top of the bin, and be questioned ferociously by your offspring the next morning as to how exactly their creation ended up in said bin, and then have to blame daddy, before you learn your lesson good and proper.
And I can’t talk about my son’s pictures without mentioning that substance so evil, so malevolent, that it haunts me on a regular basis. It is the Devil’s Dandruff. GLITTER. Because I may dispose of my sons’ pictures, but I cannot eradicate the glitter. It inveigles its way into nooks and crannies. It has an access-all-areas pass to surfaces and crevices that should be physically impossible to reach. My son made me a card recently, smothered in glitter. That evening, I found a twinkling spot of glitter somewhere it had no right to be. In my pants. IN MY PANTS. And three days later, I found another renegade piece clinging to my son’s forehead. So enough is enough. When a picture with glitter enters my house, I seal off the downstairs, don my chemical warfare suit, and using six foot prongs, take it straight to the bin.
I will allow my children’s’ pictures onto my fridge, I am not a total bitch. They just have to finish practising first.