Let me start with a confession that many parents have but don’t all love to make: I throw out the art my kids bring home from school. I throw out (or to be more accurate, recycle) a lot of it. I throw it out in bunches in the middle of the night and I sneak it out piece by piece as they eat yogurt at the kitchen table.
If you have kids who are still close to kindergarten age, you’ll know too that “a lot” of kindergarten art isn’t the same as “a lot” of coffee in the morning or “a lot” of pizza at night.
No, “a lot” of art from your young child means you were considering building an addition to your home before you finally built up the courage to try and dispose of one of the Kleenex box “treasure boxes” they made in their first week.
You start by seeing how close you can get it to the recycling pile before they notice. Then every day you move it inch by inch until one day it’s recycling day and your partner knows their role is to distract the kids while you move the box from the counter to the recycling bin and then the bin from the garage to the curb.
You feel bad. But you feel so good. I do not feel like a bad dad when I dispose of these pieces. I don’t feel the love being sucked out of their sleeping bodies along with the designs.
But...some of the art we get is amazing. In fact, it is positively outstanding.
I know this because I found myself collecting a self-portrait or a robot or a bumblebee and storing them in my closet for no reason. Then it was a rainbow and a monster version of my daughter.
And then I decided the closet wasn’t the best place for these pieces, but my body was. And that’s how the art I once found expendable became part of my …
My Father’s Day gift to myself this year was repeated piercings of my skin in a variety of colours. More specifically, 13 shades of eight different colours formed in the shape of a rainbow.
For me, my tattoos of my children’s works of art are the method of choice for holding on to the memories of this age. I get that kids grow up and I’m fine with that. But this is my portable “lean up against the wall and mark your height” tool.
They’re the things I’ll always be able to look at and tell my oldest daughter “I remember when you were only bumblebee drawing old,” or “when you were just rainbow drawing old, you used to fall asleep with a nightlight on and a book covering your face.”
And it’s a great way to share the now we have together too. We look at these pieces often. We talk about how rainbows don’t really have 13 colours or how the bumblebee on my arm didn’t really get stabbed repeatedly in its stinger. Or, how she used to be a head attached to legs.
What these tattoos do is make us smile together. And what else could a dad want?
Do I expect this show of commitment to their art will result in a gallery show years down the road? Not really. Actually, not at all. But I do expect us to still be smiling then. And I can’t begin to imagine how many more we might have to laugh over then.