Deborah Ross: 'The macaroni-and-glitter stage of childhood creates appalling carnage'

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The Independent Online

If you ask me, the combination of art and children is most trying. It starts with the crayoned squiggle which they'll say is a "fish" but obviously isn't a fish, as it's just a squiggle.

"That looks nothing like a fish. Go do it again, dumbo," you might want to say but, of course, in these over-praising, non-competitive times, where every child now gets a cup and ribbon on sports day (even the total losers!), you cannot. So, instead, you say, "It's marvellous, darling" and put it on the fridge even though, if they want their work to go on show, they should really provide a brief bio and timeline.

Next, it's the macaroni-and-glitter stage, and the appalling carnage this always involves. Macaroni everywhere. Glitter everywhere. Glitter. Glitter is viral. Glitter gets into every inch of the house and your being. Glitter gets into your lungs. All these years later, I can still cough up sparkly phlegm with quite a twinkle to it. But did I remain encouraging? Yes, although it does get harder over the years. "Marvellous darling," I would say, scarcely glancing at the 29th macaroni-glitter calendar of the week. "You possess a great talent," I would add, while binning it. "And if that macaroni had eyes, those eyes would be following me around the room," I might further add, while taking the bins out, and doing a sparkly cough.

Next comes the most frightening stage: figurative work. Your child presents you with a picture of a fat blob with three strands of hair and dots for eyes, one dot significantly higher than the other.

"Who is that?" you will ask. "It's you, Mummy!" will come the reply. You will protest. You will go into denial. But then you will look in the mirror and see you are a fat blob with three strands of hair and one dot of an eye higher than the other. This is always upsetting, but the truth, which is why you should put these pictures on the fridge. They are on ours and you are welcome to come see them anytime. You will know our house. It's the one between the very big flower and the very small tree. Also, you will know me, as I have three fingers on one hand, only two on the other and wear a big, red triangular dress.