Watching a child engaging in the creative process can leave a parent with feelings of awe and wonder. You can almost see the links forming between synapses as she makes connections with textures, color, form, and light. Unfortunately, the result is often less inspiring than the process itself and can leave parents wondering about the original intent.
Regardless, we praised Reina’s efforts and happily displayed her work on the refrigerator. However, this created the problem of what to do with drawings once they were displaced by newer work.
For my daughter, the answer was simple: keep it all. In the case of paintings or drawings, this was easy enough as they stacked nicely. Not so with craft projects. Despite promises of tidiness, she crammed her drawers full of paper tangles that couldn’t be teased apart without damaging the “artworks” inside.
The mess expanded beyond her desk. Reina’s room overflowed with odd boxes, old masks, science experiments, cardboard models, costumes, and enough bits and pieces of jewelry to fill a store. It didn’t matter if something was broken; perhaps it would be recycled for another project. More often than not, it just sat amid dust bunnies in the bottom of a drawer.
When faced with getting rid of something, Reina declared that it held fond memories of her earlier childhood, or looked pretty, or she could not bear to part with it. This all added to the challenge of keeping her room tidy, especially if her little brothers got into her stuff.
Once, I tried to deal with her room by combing through the flotsam and jetsam on my own. I collected bagfuls of items neglected for months and stored them out of sight. After six months, I gleefully disposed of everything.
All was well until Reina inquired about some missing doodads. I couldn’t lie to her, so I ended up repurchasing some of the very things I tossed out.
Recently, in a fit of frustration, I negotiated a two-pronged plan of attack. First, I declared her room officially full; nothing new could go in unless something old came out. We also agreed on boxing up bits and pieces of arts and crafts projects for later consideration.
Because Reina was reluctant to toss out even her rough drafts, I figured we could store them in her closet until she came to her senses or we decide to move. We went through heaps of stuff – including her toys – and decided what to keep, what to give away to Roundabout, and what to put into deep storage. Most of the artworks ended up in one of the boxes, but she decided to donate several stuffed animals and Barbie dolls. Not being a fan of Barbie, I enthusiastically supported her eviction.
The result? Her room is still a challenge, but things are improving. After Reina’s seventh birthday recently, I marched in with a large bag and said we had to make way for the new. Things she refused to part with before ended up in the bag and an entire drawer lay empty under her bed. I still cannot get her to put everything away, but at least everything now has a place.
Illustration : Sun Zheng
This article originally appeared on p54 of the beijingkids May 2014 issue. Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com.