In Defense of Kid-Craft Walls

For those of you following our story, I’m so excited to tell you that we have found our dream home. It’s everything we had hoped for, and we’re counting the days until we get to move in. We know the sellers, too, so it was only moderately embarrassing when our kids made themselves at home the first time we toured it by immediately throwing rocks off the deck. Hello, new neighbors! You’re going to love us!

We’re still two months from closing, so we have the luxury of packing at our own pace. This is both a blessing and a curse for someone like me because now I get to agonize over all the memories attached to the clutter we’ve stuffed into every nook and cranny these past three years — this single baby boy shoe that’s been lost for ages, the old sticker charts documenting new words spoken, homemade games that have been broken and lost pieces but still stir up nostalgia remembering the joyous 18 minutes we played with each.

Pulling me out of my sentimental haze is the anticipation of getting to decorate our new home. As years-long renters, we’ve never been able to choose paint colors or window treatments. Having married and gotten knocked up five minutes out of college, we’ve never had the extra money to spend on “nice” wall-hangings, furniture that isn’t hand-me-down, or upgrading out of the self-assembled Swedish fare. We’ve always told ourselves that it wasn’t worth the money to decorate a temporary space, but rather we should save up for the real thing since we had no way of knowing what style or space we’d be dealing with.

And so I have decorated our walls the only way I could. Rather, I let the kids do it:

Noodle art, puff balls, and enough paper plates to host 79 toddler birthday parties.

I realize this is neither soothing nor aesthetically pleasing to the untrained eye. But these walls have evolved over time, telling our family’s stories and charting our children’s growth.

For instance, guests may walk into our kitchen and see nothing but a piece of paper covered in jungle stickers; I see a hesitant 18-month-old boy passing time as his mommy nurses his brand new sister on their first day home from the hospital. It took far longer than either of us anticipated, and so the stickers began to overlap and diminish all the white space as time drew on. I see that picture and I feel his patience, feel the guilt that crept into my heart that day. I look at that picture and remind myself of the sweet beauty that came out of the apprehension and nerves that day. I see my baby growing into a boy, able for the first time to command the stickers in his clumsy fingers.

At some point, we graduated from single crafts to duplicates as Baby Sister earned her glue-and-sequins badge.

At some point, we graduated from single crafts to duplicates as Baby Sister earned her glue-and-marker rights.

Friends may see splotches of paint, where I see progress as little hands grew and the tools they used became more sophisticated — from crude finger swipes to a rubber duck whose head became a handle while its body became a makeshift stamp when dunked into paint. I see where we graduated from foam brushes swiping through a single color to the intricacy of having to rinse and dab a paintbrush before moving to a new well of color in a tray of many.

This looks like it came straight out of a Pottery Barn catalogue if you’re drunk enough.

There are handprints and footprints for every occasion, decorated as reindeer and ghosts and fishies and turkeys. They may all look the same to you, but I know which chubby little fingers belong to each child, and I remember the painstaking effort it took to dangle those tiny kicking feet above a canvas, trying to make a clean print. I see the smudges that inevitably encircle each and laugh at my naivety — the nerve of a rookie mother, thinking she can expect perfection.

Antlers are hard.

A friend recently introduced me to the teachings of famous de-clutterer Marie Kondo, and as I begin the great purge that precedes a move to a new house, I’ve found success in thanking every thing for its service before tossing it in the can. There’s something about these walls of crafts, though, that ping the little hoarder center of my brain. Perhaps a blog post in their honor is my own way of thanking them, and one day soon I’ll be able to recognize that my kitchen is not a preschool and it’s time to part ways.

Soon I will be living in 50 shades of Restoration Hardware gray, blissfully ensconced in the grown-up decor we’ve been dreaming of. And I know I can take photos and even pack these crafties up to take with us if I can’t get a grip and pitch it all if I’m so inclined. But for now, I’m content to sip my tepid coffee in a room that matches my state of mind: haphazard and busy, but full of love and color — and largely overwhelmed by the shmears of young children.

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