By: Tosha Woronov
See this? This is Leo’s artwork that I am throwing away. Trashing. I’ll bet those of you with kids under 2 will not understand this. I barely believe it myself.
When Leo was 15 months old, I dragged him to an art center for toddlers. For $12, the center provided us with 2 hours (we needed 2.5 minutes), a smock, an easel, paper, brushes, washable paint, and most importantly, a floor that belonged to someone else. I was so excited! He was so confused! The kid learned to walk, like, only the day before, so all he really wanted to do was lean on the easel. It also didn’t occur to me that he wouldn’t immediately know to pick up the brush, dip the brush in the paint, touch the paint-coated brush onto the paper, make a picture. He just kind of stared at it all. But still I was determined. I grabbed his little hand and together we moved the paintbrush around on the paper. A stroke of blue appeared. He smiled. We swirled another design onto the page. And another. He touched the paint. Yes! Go buddy! Use your hands! Get dirty! Create! Puh-leaze. He just wanted to get that damn smock off and get his snack on. All done mommy! Creating over. But still I framed it. I was so proud. It’s hanging in his room now, almost 4 years later. His first – er, our first painting. If you told me then that I would someday be throwing out his art, I would have scoffed at you, you heartless bastard.
Starting a family? Veteran parents will talk all day long about sleepless nights, the struggle to find “me-time”, the importance of preserving romance in your marriage. But no one warns you about this. Each day at pick-up time, Leo digs through his school take-home file, and proudly pulls out two, three, eight masterpieces – paintings, tiny little scraps of paper, hearts, rainbows, glitter-glue splattered motifs, feathers stuck to pom-poms stuck to popsicle sticks, elaborate, geometric, architectural-looking drawings that I know he spent forever on, and, every day, every single day, at least one piece that says “I love you Mommy (Daddy)”, or something to that effect.
Now imagine 6 months later, throwing them away. His love, in writing. Little fingers tightly clutching a red marker, his brain telling his arm to tell his hand to craft the letters M-O-M-M-Y …all so I can eventually THROW IT AWAY!! Trust me, I keep everything, I do. Ask anyone. I am the queen of the sentimental. I organize the shit out of it. I keep a jar of his quotes, a box of his Halloween costumes, a timeline of his milestones. But I simply cannot store all of the artwork. It enters the house (or it’s created in the house), and goes immediately to the mail area so daddy can see it. Then it’s on to the fridge, or the walls of the playroom, or his bedroom, maybe even framed. Everything else is pretty much stuffed into a large wooden in-tray, where it sits and grows, and GROWS until I can, about twice a year, sift through it all. Those that make the cut move on to their final resting place: giant plastic storage boxes labeled “Leo’s Art.” We have two boxes so far: “Up to age 4” and “Age 4 to ___”. The rest goes in the TRASH.
And so here I sit, art piled all around, deciding what stays. Which pieces will be here twenty years from now, to ooh and aah over with his girlfriend? Who am I to judge? How to choose one good rainbow over another? There are 63 rainbow pictures to consider. I counted.
Enter Leo: What are you doing?
Me: Oh, just looking at all the beautiful art you made and organizing it.
Leo: I will help you.
Leo: I made this rainbow when Gigi and Papa were here for my birthday. I made this heart when I stayed home sick with the throw-ups. I made this for daddy when he was on his trip. I made this rainbow for you when you were sick with the throw- ups. I made this one when I was 4 and 3/4 in art class. We used sticks and straws instead of brushes. I made this in art class, too. We used these sock things, filled with sand, and dropped them in the paint, so they would go splat! on the paper. I made this at Thanksgiving with Gonnie when you were trying to make food for the party. I made this on Easter. I made this for Charlie. I made this…
Screw it. We’ll just have to rent a storage unit.