Drawing Out Our Fear


It’s a quiet day around here. So much quieter than it’s been in a while. Plum started nursery last week so this is my first Monday afternoon on my own. The clock on the wall is loud and I’ve already had three cups of tea.

This morning, Plum and I made soup, played with trains, and watched a program. I made him wait for that last one because he’d started asking for television as soon as the big kids left in the morning. I showed him how the hands on the clock move and told him that he had to wait until the big one pointed straight down. For the next forty minutes, he took pilgrimages back and forth to the kitchen about every five minutes, returning with creative updates.

It looks like a Y now.

A straight line.

Almost… there!

Forty minutes of the most intense waiting, then a whole lot of jumping up and down. Being three is amazing.

I asked him what he wanted to watch, knowing full well that it would be the Octonauts. It’s an underwater, animal-crewed version of Star Trek and he loves it. The episodes are eleven minutes each, so I told him he could have two – one to watch with me and one on his own. This usually works a charm with Plum. I found with the other kids, the end of a program could be dreadful. Turning off is hard to do. But give this little one something clear to expect and he’s fine.

Except today, he wasn’t. Maybe it was all that exhausting waiting. Maybe gulper eels are truly terrifying. I’m not sure. Around minute six, he wanted to stop.  I persuaded him to keep with it. Maybe that was the wrong thing to do. I don’t know.  I told him that stories sometimes had scary parts to them, but that if we held on, I was sure that in a moment or two, we would see that everyone would really be a helper and that everything would be happy in the end. He wasn’t at all sure, but I held him tightly and together we kept watching.

It was all happy in the end. Plum agreed and even danced a little to the closing credits, but something inside him was still a little shaky.

We had a cookie. And another cuddle.

Later, he wanted to do some drawing. I pulled out his markers and a sheet of paper, and he set up shop at the kitchen table while I finished the soup.  Or that was the idea. In reality, I stood at his shoulder and watched. He drew seaweed, then lots of seaweed. He asked me to help with a fish and then he drew bubbles.  He told me it was all for the Octonauts. I told him I thought it might be. He told me it was.

One of the scariest parts of the program this morning had been when the rover cam – an underwater robot camera – got covered in seaweed and looked like a monster. There are four rover cams in Plum’s picture, some without seaweed, some with, but even when it was present, it was always very small. Insignificant.  I like that.

This was amazing to watch. With chunky markers and a bit of scrap paper, my little kid was drawing out his fear. I could see that with each addition to the page, he felt better and better.  I wished that I’d thought to suggest drawing like this. It felt like something a good parent might think of.

But maybe that’s just what happened.

Why do I forget just how close God really is? Why do I expect that I have to teach my kids how their hearts work, forgetting that they are already being taught in every moment by a much better teacher? As the epistle writer John reminds us, God is greater than our feelings. Feelings may come and  go, but the work and promises of God are deeper and it is rooted in God that we grow.

Plum doesn’t want to share his drawing quite yet, so that’s why I`ve included another artist’s work at the top of this piece.  It is a large mural called Deep Sea Food Chain by Bruce Mahalski who painted it on the wooden boards of a construction site in Wellington New Zealand. The gulper eel sits in the top left corner, looking pink and smiley.

I’ve left Plum’s paper on the counter in the kitchen. He says maybe he’ll work on it a bit more tomorrow.


Picture by Pieter Pieterse  via Flickr.


About Katie Munnik

Katie Munnik is an Ottawa writer currently living in Cardiff with her Spouse and three growing children. Each Monday on the Messy Table, she writes about the practice of reading lectionary and the practical theology of parenting - from birthday cakes to broken hearts and everything in between. Katie also writes Kaleidoscopically, a monthly column in the print edition of the Presbyterian Record. You can also find Katie on twitter @messy_table Subscribe to this blog.