Parents hanging on to an ever-growing stockpile of their kids' drawings might be happy to read the advice of Mary Townsend: Toss it in the trash, she advises in an essay in the Atlantic. She started doing this herself—prompted in part because her mother began dropping off boxes of memorabilia she had saved from Townsend's own childhood—and found a surprising relief in the move. "Perhaps I am a monster," she writes, but the essay makes an eloquent case for doing the same, as Townsend ruminates about our notions of childhood and art itself. "Of course, I felt an ache as I pitched it into the trash," she recalls. "There’s a moment when a child first presents you with her art, holding it out with the last split second of attention she can muster after completing it."
It's a moment that "contains a burst of pride on both your parts, and a frisson of mutual love," she writes. "But in the end, your pride lasts longer than the child’s does." The child moves on quickly, which is healthy, but the parent remains stuck there in nostalgia. Townsend suggests that the act of creating something is more important for the child than the thing that actually gets created. There's no need, then, to stick it in a box and keep it for decades. "The correct answer is to make the art, bestow it upon someone to behold and admire for a while, and then toss it," she writes. "It makes the right tribute to beauty and it’s the correct moral stance toward the more ephemeral qualities of childhood." Click for the full column. (Read more art stories.)