Coming Clean On Why My Kids' Artwork Is In The Trash

by Sara Robbin
Emma Kim / Getty

If you are the type of mom who saves every little scrap of paper your child scribbles on, posting the artwork on Instagram and Facebook, and adorning your house in a blanket of his/her little strokes of genius, then please stop reading now because you just won’t relate.

“What happened to the picture I made in school?” my four-year old daughter asked innocently, her eyes wide with wonder, questioning where her daily “masterpiece” could be.

Panic immediately set in. I looked into the depths of the trash bin. Damn. There was already food on top of it, preventing any emergency salvage attempt, which had succeeded many times before.

My next thought: who could I blame? Daddy, my usual culprit, wasn’t home so that wouldn’t work. And I just used the “so strange…I have no idea how this piece randomly ended up in the trash” line yesterday.

So how do I respond to her naive little inquiry without crashing all her hopes and dreams, and putting her in therapy for years lamenting about her cold-hearted mother?

Call me evil, but I was just so sick of pretending that every scribble scrabble my daughter created in preschool or at home was an amazing work of art. Don’t get me wrong, I love her creativity. But let’s be honest, she’s currently no Picasso. She’s four. So a lot of what she makes pretty much looks like trash, and belongs in it as well.

There was no choice but to come clean. I took a deep breath. Here goes….

“I threw it out,” I said matter of factly.

There. I said it.

I stared into her eyes to see if they were welling with tears. I hope she still loved me. Was it possible to still love someone who did not value the “creation” she made of two blue lines and a random yellow circle, if that’s what it even was (still unclear)? Could I retract the confession, tell her we left it in the car, and then blame Daddy later?

No response. Just a blank stare.

“Sweetie,” I said, in my most coaxing voice, while running my fingers through her soft bronze curls. “You make something every single day. I just can’t keep it all. But you know what? The really special pieces that you make — those can go on the fridge to be displayed!”

And then I quickly threw in as an aside under my breath, “And the rest will just go in the garbage.”

It must have been some kind of miracle, but she perked up, and simply replied, “Ok…can I go draw another picture?”

Today the fridge remains a sacred place, an elite home for both my daughter and her older brother’s “masterpieces.” There is only room for a few special pieces, so the old items rotate out as newer ones come in.

My kids have now learned an important lesson — all artwork is not created equal and I will not ooh and ahh over everything their little hands create. Only the very best pieces with the most heart make it onto the fridge.

My kids now take enormous pride when their work is deemed “fridge worthy.” I love having a less cluttered house. And most importantly — I can now stop rummaging through the garbage.