The Art of Getting Rid of My Child’s Art

My son went for several years in which the most artistic thing he created was a urine stain in the shape of a dolphin.  And then when he was around two years old, at a drop off program where I would leave him a few times a week, he began coming home with pieces of “art,” and by “art,” I mean things like this octopus:


Which is ridiculous, because he did not make this octopus.  Because even two years later, this is as good of an octopus as he is capable of creating:


And in case you’re going to run to his defense and go, “Yes, it has the wrong number of legs but it’s a good attempt at an octopus,” know that the artist himself looked at this picture, sighed, and said, “No, this is a jellyfish.”

He did not draw that first octopus, the teacher’s assistant did, so I am not keeping it.  While I am mildly attached to the second octopus (which looks, for the record, like this mole on my husband’s neck that will not stop sprouting hairs), he will draw others like it and I cannot keep all of them.  The below masterpiece which I was informed was “our apartment” will go directly into the garbage, despite it being a fairly accurate representation of how totally filthy our apartment sometimes is.


And it’s not that I want to devalue his artistic attempts, but he is a four-year-old child.  He is still at the age where if we are going to trek into the city to a museum, there’s a much higher chance that he will request to see dinosaurs than china from the Ming dynasty.


And in case you’re murmuring, “Wow, my child is eleven years old and would still rather look at dinosaurs than china from the Ming dynasty,” please know that I am in my late thirties and would rather look at dinosaurs than at china from the Ming dynasty.


I would wager that most people from the Ming dynasty (see above illustration) would have been way more excited to see dinosaurs than china from the Ming dynasty and that the dinosaurs would have been equally excited to see /eat the people of the Ming dynasty.   It is hard to muster enthusiasm for (even very beautiful) dinnerware.


But I’m getting off topic.  We were talking about children’s art.  Someone once asked what I did with the art my son brought home from his drop off program and I said “I throw it away” and they said “Yes, but after how long?” and I said, “Usually into the first garbage can I walk past on the way home from the drop off.”

Thank you for asking!  I am a monster!


And if you are going, “Wait, your child handed you a piece of artwork and you literally just threw it in a garbage can after four minutes?” I am saying, yes!  Or no, because sometimes I would peel the googly eyes off the piece first since it seemed wasteful to throw away a pair of perfectly good googly eyes when you could take them home and glue them onto your appliances or place them over your dog’s eyes while she’s sleeping.


And in case you are wondering why I am getting rid of so much artwork, it is because I came from a family which held on to everything.  Once while going through my mother’s attic I came across a plastic baggie filled with shards of paper from the first time I successfully used a scissor.  She also held on to all the Get Well Soon cards from my tonsillectomy in 1986 and literally every self-portrait I have ever done.


And I do not have the space.  I cannot keep everything my son creates and I cannot keep everything I create, because we create too much stuff.  In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.  But then several years later, God created Crayola washable markers and stickers and colored pencils and finger paint and stamp pens and glue sticks and (ugh) glitter, and pipe cleaners and construction paper.  And then a few years after that my husband and I created a small boy who produces drawings with the speed of an out-of-control machine in an I Love Lucy episode.


And the older he gets and the more he draws, the harder it is to throw things away.  Things that reflect his interests.  Things he loves.  Things he drew after remembering them from a dream.

So I pick and choose what I keep.  Here is what I keep:

1.Notable firsts, like the first time he drew something that was recognizable as a person.  The first time he drew his family.   

2. Things that are unusual or showcase his personality. 

3. Anything that is intended as a gift.  

4. Things he makes at school that are so bizarre and weird that I can’t bear to throw them away.


And the rest goes out.   I am not saying it isn’t hard because it is.  You always feel like you are throwing away something precious, and you are, but there is too much.

It is hard to let anything go.

I can no more hang onto all of his artwork than I can hang onto all of his childhood, although obviously, at times, it is tempting.


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If you enjoyed this piece, please sign up to follow the blog or follow The Ugly Volvo on Facebook or Twitter.  If you know someone who’s about to have a baby, I wrote a book called Welcome to the Club about some of the less celebrated baby milestones that is a wonderful baby shower gift and can be purchased for not-that-much-money here, here or here.  If you were really impressed by my self-portrait, thanks, I worked really hard on it probably.  I draw myself a bit differently now, but my name is still Raquel D’Apice.  My birthday is still May 16th.  I am no longer seven years old.  My favorite color is no longer pink (it’s yellow) and my favorite food is no longer “ham.”  



12 CommentsComment

  1. I throw most all of it away unless the colors are particularly nice. My MIL even informed me that most of the stuff my 2yo brings home from mini-artists is generally her work as he has zero interest (we didn’t sign him up a second time).

    My mom recently brought up two portfolios worth of stuff I did in high school. I kept probably three pieces that were actually decent and chucked the rest because it was stressful to have so much junk in the house and most of it was carp anyway.

  2. Avatar

    Carole Friedman

    Hysterical. You are an amazing astute observer of life, and just because I know you doesn’t make it less true!

  3. I didn’t keep everything either. If something was really nice then it got thrown into a large Rubbermaid tub that they are expected to cart off with them when they move from my home the very first time.
    I did keep the first drawing my son did…it’s a cubed steak. Apparently, we’d had that for dinner the night before.

    • Noooooooo, you’ll just be haunting them with the future stress of throwing out stuff. My husband periodically gets these boxes from his parents and they just sit in our house mocking us until I tell him I will set it on fire in the front yard if he doesn’t go through it and get rid of it soon.

  4. We have a fireplace at home and so also a bin in front of it in which scraps of used paper are put to use as firestarters. I have had a few accusing looks when one of my daughters has found a hastily scribbled unicorn in the firestarter bin. So now I usually have a second bin in which I store them for a while before moving them on mass to the fire bin. I suspect after a couple of weeks she has forgotten that she actually drew it and is fine with me throwing out some other child’s art.

  5. When your child is older he may be offended by your treating his artwork like trash. So you will need to dispose of it on the sly. This is what empty cereal boxes are for. Your welcome!

  6. 99% in the bin. The dog goggly eye photo is hilarious, I can’t get my Springer to hold still for it though, you have a tolerant hound.

    • Avatar

      Raquel D'Apice

      she is super patient. I don’t know why she puts up with any of us.

  7. A friend of mine has kept every single drawing her 2 girls have ever made. They are the same age as my girls (17&14), and she literally has thousands of scrap books full of their art work, from the days they were both born! As for me we only keep certain things, like cards they made, school projects that they’ve spent months on and any pieces that they really like.

  8. I got a great idea from a dear friend. We take pictures of his paintings and art work, and then use the Mac store, or any of the other hundreds of online print shops, and we print a coffee table book of all his art. We still save (and maybe frame) some exceptional ones, but having them in a book preserves them in an interesting way that doesn’t take up too much space.

  9. I copied another mom with this brilliant idea – I create a portfolio of scanned artwork that goes into a little book I made online (such as Shutterfly or Snapfish, etc). I have one book for preschool, one for K-2, and now that my son is in 3rd grade, the art has tapered off considerably. He loves his portfolios and I love that they are two tiny books he can admire whenever he wants. 🙂

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