Look What I Made, Daddy!
by Jay K. Payleitner, radio producer, author and family man
It’s every dad’s sweetest nightmare. Your four year old interrupts your newspaper reading or bill paying and proudly presents you with a drawing of what looks like a porcupine eating pizza on a piano on the porch. Dad, there is more than you realize riding on what you say and do next.
Your first fatherly response is obvious. You oooh and aaah. Your second response is more calculated. Your unspoken goal is to find out what is actually in the drawing without crushing their little creative spirit. Don’t say, “What is it?” Instead invite the little artist up on your lap and say, “Whoa. This is most excellent. Tell me about it.” Then start picking up on their verbal cues. Let them point to the indecipherable kayak, Ferris wheel, marching band or wildebeest. Ask them open-ended questions that get them thinking and explaining. “How did you choose these two colors?” “These lines are straight and these are curvy. Why did you choose that?” The idea is to partner with them in the discovery of their own creative abilities and help them see how they have control over the creative choices they make. You can point out elements of their artwork that are bold and decisive, even suggesting that their efforts have led you to think new thoughts. Let them know that— like all the great works of art—their masterpiece has given you a new perspective on life, the world, or some other grand concept.
Certainly you say “Thank you so much.” But then you need to figure out what to do with it. If you tape or pushpin it to the wall, it will stay there for a very long time. Trust me, even now I’m looking at a silly moustache man made from pencil shavings, an orange-crayoned sports logo and a computer-generated “King of the World” Award that should have been taken down from the walls of my office long ago.
One option would be to convince the young artist that it would be “a perfect gift for mom!” Problem solved. Another option would be to post it on the fridge … which would also make it mom’s problem. If it’s truly delightful, you may want to have it professionally mounted and framed. (That’s a rare occurrence, but with the right piece of artwork, suddenly you’ve got a forever keepsake.)
Their Very Own Personalized File Folder
The best option is for you to accept it graciously and save it efficiently. On the back with pencil put the date and the artist’s name, then slide it into your child’s personalized file folder and drop it into your home filing cabinet. What if you don’t have a file folder with your child’s name on it? Make one. Don’t have a filing cabinet? Get one or pick up a cardboard banker’s box at your local office supply store.
When the artist comes back three days later inquiring about the whereabouts of the work of art, you can honestly say, “I saved it!” And even pull it out as proof. Of course, this whole art-saving system only works with two-dimensional pieces. For sculptures, mobiles, woodworking projects, hats, masks, and models you’ll need an alternate (and perhaps more ruthless) system. Sculptures placed on bookshelves turn into very efficient dust magnets.
It works for more than artwork
Once you’ve established a personalized file folder for each of your kids, you can also use it as a bonus receptacle for all kinds of memorabilia. What else can you shove into a 9×12 file folder? Report cards, concert programs, math quizzes, school awards, team rosters, notes they left for you, notes you left for them, newspaper clippings, Father’s Day cards, movie tickets, menus and memorabilia from any adventure you share over the years.
Just to clarify. This isn’t the place for critical medical records, current sports schedules, or precious photographs. This file folder is a long-term catchall for stuff you just don’t know what to do with.
When you come home from an outing with a program in your pocket, suddenly you have a place for it. Your child’s name is printed on it, so you don’t want to throw it away, but you also don’t want it cluttering your kitchen counter or credenza. Just slip it in the file folder.
Be warned, when that folder gets about an inch thick it will contain more than a few minutes worth of memories. So don’t pick it up and start leafing through it unless you have plenty of time to let the years of memories wash over you.
Taken from: 52 Things Kids Need from a Dad. Copyright © 2010 by Jay Payleitner. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR. www.harvesthousepublishers.com. Used by permission.