Cotswold Mother: Home is where the art is

I am surely not the only mother who dreads the sight of my children clutching armfuls of drawings an

I am surely not the only mother who dreads the sight of my children clutching armfuls of drawings and junk models as they pour out of school - Credit: Archant

Clare Mackintosh isn’t so keen on her children’s badly crayoned pictures of her where she apparently has no hair and her teeth are bigger than her hands, stuck up haphazardly with Blu-tack...

I am surely not the only mother who dreads the sight of my children clutching armfuls of drawings and junk models as they pour out of school. “Look, Mummy!” they cry, when we eventually get home. They brandish a badly drawn picture in my face, scarcely able to stand still, such is their excitement at this latest artistic endeavour. “That’s lovely, darling,” I say. “Now pop it in the recycling box, and go and get ready for swimming.” I can hear your gasps from here, but you can’t keep everything, can you? My three children produce at least a dozen ‘works of art’ each week (not to mention the castles built from loo roll and painted with Farrow & Ball tester pots) – just where is it supposed to go?

I like my house. I like the sage green walls in the kitchen and the tastefully arranged Bridgewater pottery. I like my arty photographs, my scatter cushions and the sculpture we got as a wedding present from Sophie and Ian. I don’t, however, like badly crayoned pictures of me, where I’ve apparently got no hair and my teeth are bigger than my hands, stuck up haphazardly on walls with Blu-tack and pieces of peeling Sellotape. I don’t like models made of yoghurt pots, PVA glue dripping between the cracks, gracing my occasional tables. And I don’t like glitter. Anywhere.

Like every parent, I think my children are immensely talented, but Jackson Pollock they’re not. If the kids have spent a lot of time on a drawing, or produced something truly lovely, I’ll put it on the fridge for a while before it goes in the art file for posterity. But I don’t plaster the walls with the children’s art, and you won’t find it in the sitting room – that’s strictly a grown-up space. As artist Frank Gelett Burgess once said, “I don’t know anything about art, but I know what I like.” Well, I like a tidy house.

At the end of last term I was in school for my weekly ‘parent helper’ session. I love these afternoons: I help with French, Science, ICT… whatever the class is doing, and it’s two hours away from emails, phone calls and deadlines. The children were making calendars to take home for their parents. Painted handprints had been turned into animals and plants; the resulting page had been backed with card, and finally the children were painstakingly tying pieces of ribbon to the top, and stapling diary pages to the bottom.

“It’s an awful lot of work for something that’ll end up in the bin, isn’t it?” I said casually to the class teacher, who was fighting with the laminator. She stopped and looked at me, her face aghast. “Why would they end up in the bin?” This was a turn up for the books: did teachers actually expect parents to keep things? I faltered. “Um, because that’s what I do with mine.” There was a loaded silence and I rushed to fill it. “It all takes up room, doesn’t it?” I said, desperately trying to justify my actions. “And this sort of thing,”’ I held up a cock-eyed hand-print embellished with yellow splodges on the end of each finger, “I mean, what’s it even supposed to be?”’ “It’s a bunch of daffodils,” the teacher said, with more than a trace of froideur.

At that point I felt it wise to let the subject drop, and we worked in silence until the calendars were finished and handed back to their owners to take home, where I felt certain most were destined for the recycling box. The children sat on the carpet and I wished them all a happy half-term. “Just a moment,” the teacher said, as I picked up my bag. “We’ve got something for you, to say thank you for coming in every week.” There was a flutter of excitement from the carpet and my heart began to melt. I didn’t expect anything, of course I didn’t, but how kind of them all to think of me. I wondered if it might be chocolates, or perhaps a bottle of wine. The teacher handed me a flat, wrapped package, a hint of amusement on her face, and I didn’t need to open it to know what I would find inside. “I do hope you like it,” she said. “I believe they’re meant to be tulips.”

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This article by Clare Mackintosh is from the March 2014 issue of Cotswold Life.

For more from Clare, follow her on Twitter: @claremackint0sh