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guilt

My Son’s Preschool Art Projects Are Giving Me Guilt

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As a kid, I was never particularly artistic. In fact, throughout my school years, I was known as that girl who couldn’t draw a straight line with a pencil and a ruler. I enjoyed doing art projects when I was young, but as I got older, I started to find them annoying. Granted, these feelings were undoubtedly influenced by the fact that I was just so darn bad at them, but I definitely remember reaching a point–perhaps sometime around 3rd or 4th grade–where I could no longer be as enthusiastic about art class, even though most regarded it as a very welcome break from the more rigorous academic subjects we learned.

Still, I do think art projects have a very welcome place in school, and I’m happy they’re a part of my son’s preschool curriculum. There’s just one problem: My son comes home with an art project pretty much every day. Some days, he comes home with multiple projects. These run the gamut from plain white papers with stamps and scribbles on them to cut-outs and holiday-themed creations.

At first I made an effort to keep every single one, but at this point, the projects are piling up in my office. There are glitter bits all over my floor, and I’m starting to run out of room–and patience. When I mentioned to my mom that I’d need to start being more selective about which ones to keep, she protested.

“But how could you throw out anything he makes?”

Here’s the thing: I’m not the most sentimental person, but more so than that, I really, really don’t like clutter. Mail annoys me. I love magazines but refuse to subscribe to any that aren’t available online, where they won’t take up physical space. (Really, isn’t everything electronic nowadays anyway?) I know these art projects are different, but I have to admit, sometimes I wish they’d magically get lost or fly away in the parking lot on the way out of school so I don’t have to deal with storing them.

Now before you starting thinking I’m a monster, understand that I do keep the things that are meaningful to me: the fake theater tickets my husband gave me for the night he instead surprised me with a marriage proposal; the newborn hat my son wore in the hospital the day he was born; my first ever Mother’s Day card; and, most recently, the first ultrasound picture that revealed I was carrying twins. But I do have my limits, and have to admit that while I certainly get a kick out of the projects my son brings home, I don’t feel the need to keep most of them. At the same time, I’ve started to feel this twinge of guilt every time I opt to toss my son’s project of the day in the trash rather than find a way to store and preserve it, and I can only partially blame that on the lecture I got from my mom.

I know that my son won’t always be a perpetually enthusiastic 3-year-old who happily scribbles with abandon, completely unaware of the fact that by all indications he seems to have inherited his mother’s unfortunate art skills. One day, he may come to regard art projects as lame, boring, or unnecessary. Maybe he’ll have other preferences when it comes to creative outlets; or maybe he’ll just start going through phases where any attempt on my part to shower him with accolades over the most minor of accomplishments will be met with eye-rolling and contempt.

Right now, when my son presents his art projects to me, he does so with pride–the pride of a 3-year-old who knows that his mommy is going to sing his praises regardless of the final product. And I don’t want to do anything to ever take that away from him.

Going forward, I don’t think I’ll have the patience to hang onto every single piece of paper my son brings home. I’ll probably choose to uphold my recently developed system of isolating the more unique projects and tossing the ones that frankly aren’t as impressive or adorable. But if I do it right, my son will never know that I’m secretly making these distinctions. Instead, for the time being, my hope is that he’ll continue to show off his drawings and creations and gain confidence in my spirited reactions, because I truly believe what my son needs more than boxes upon boxes of preserved papers is the feeling of knowing that his mother is proud of his efforts, no matter what.

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