“Oh, hold on,” said Nicola, one of the staff at my daughter Meri’s nursery, “I think she’s had a clear out of her drawer. She’s got lots of lovely pictures to take home for daddy.” The glint in Nicola’s eye told me that trouble was coming.
My heart sank as Meri went to her drawer and brought out about 40 pieces of A4 paper in an untidy pile and presented them all to me smiling.
“I did these for you, daddy,” she said as she presented them to me proudly.
“Wonderful!” I beamed at Meri. “I can’t wait to get home to look at them and then file them.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” I said in a sotto voice to Nicola, “they’re lovely but I just don’t have room to keep all of her artistic efforts.”
“Yeah,” she sympathised, “the house just isn’t big enough! As long as you throw them away discretely, there’s no harm done.”
I nodded conspiratorially at her and with a happy little daughter in one hand and her priceless artwork in the other, we headed home.
When we got in the door, we went and sat at the dining room table. Meri came and sat on my lap and we started to look at her pictures.
“Oh look, it’s a scribble,” I said. “Oh wow! Another scribble. Look at this one – it’s a scribble in green pencil this time. And one in red pencil. Oh would you look at this one! You’ve done a scribble in crayon. And as for this one, you’ve managed to scribble in purple and blue on this piece of paper…”
And so on for 40 pages of scribble. My fulsome (if insincere) praise boosting little Meri’s ego each time. Whilst they were clearly not masterpieces, I believe in praising and encouraging my children’s endeavours, no matter how scribbly in nature.
Later that day, Meri and her brother were sitting in the lounge having their tea in front of an episode of Charlie and Lola. I took the opportunity to do a little bit of tidying up around the place. I put my hand on Meri’s artwork and marched outside the front door and dumped them ignominiously into the recycle bin. As I turned round I saw Meri standing on the doorstep.
Her eyes were wide and welling with tears. Her mouth was open and her little finger pointed, shakily at the bins.
“Why?” she stammered holding back her sobs, “Why did you throw my lovely pictures in the bin?”
The horror, the injustice, the crass and barbaric nature of my act was laid bare for all to see in the expression on my darling three year old’s face.
I had a moment to decide what to say. “They weren’t your papers, darling, “I lied. “They were some of daddy’s old papers.”
“But, but…”she tried to protest.
“Not Meri’s papers, daddys,” I insisted. “And, what are you doing off your seat? Have you finished your tea? You know you’re not allowed to get up until you’ve finished eating.”
I ushered her back inside, having reasserted my authority and reclaimed the moral high ground. All was well with the world again, all except my guilty conscience that is.
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