Drawing Together

May 21, 2008 @ 7:42 am | Filed under: ,

After lunch both Monday and yesterday, I cleared the table and brought out a stack of drawing paper and our best crayons, and something magical happened. This was a notion inspired by a passage in Amanda Soule’s book, The Creative Family, about how in her home they have a regular “family drawing time.” That made me realize it had been a long, long time since the girls and I all sat down to draw together. We used to do this regularly, but you know: babies come along and the household rhythm changes.

I remember long, long ago on the CCM list, Leonie wrote about how whenever she would sit down with her watercolor pencils and nature journal, her boys would flock to the table clamoring for their own journals. There was no better, faster way to get her kids interested in an activity than in doing it herself. I had tiny little girls then, and I took Leonie’s wisdom to heart. If I draw it/knit it/bake it/sculpt it, they will come. Far better than saying “Why don’t you…(do this cool activity)” is simply to become engaged in it myself. It’s like strewing your own self.

So I sat down at the table and whoosh, I was a child magnet. For the next hour, all five kids were happily drawing pictures with me. No bickering, not even over the blue block crayon that makes the best sky! Amazing. We put on the Elgar cello concerto and Rose decreed that the perfect music to draw to. I didn’t know what to draw, so I (clumsily) illustrated a scene from a story we’d read before lunch. They really liked my depiction of the wind tangled in a treetop (from Medio Pollito, the Half Chick). Beanie started to draw a fox and decided it looked like a cave painting, so she embellished with a deer and a python and torches on the cave walls. Rose drew a rose-covered garden gate, so lovely, and Jane’s snail among flowers was quite charming. Wonderboy and Rilla filled up pages of scribbles.

Yesterday they all (save Jane, who saw a chance to slip away with the new Penderwicks book, and who can blame her?) wanted a repeat performance. “We should do this every day,” declared Rose. I quite agree.

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12 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Stephanie says:

    (small gasp of recognition!)

    Lissa, that’s it! It’s a matter of “strewing your own self” in your household. That’s the whole difference between the over-taxed mom who’s trying to perfectly manage every nuance and detail and factoid and influence and then test to make sure of it all … and the mom who invited her children into a wonderful and delicious world of learning. It’s a creative act. It’s “like God” – a good and true image – because it’s a literal and actual giving of one’s own self. Not by ruling that which is outside one’s self, but by entering in (for real – not for covert manipulation) and calling an invitation.

    This is a really profoundly beautiful thought you had by way of a box of the best crayons. (And I too have blessed Leonie over and over since I first heard of her “pegs” and her “strewing” – she’s a smart woman.)

  2. Jacqueline says:

    “Strewing yourself” I love that! Sounds like a wonderful time.

  3. Faith says:

    We have had a family drawing time for the last two years for “Advent School” It’s part of me winding down for Christmas. We stop doing copywork and just work on drawing, mostly cartooning. I am so bad at remembering to ‘strew’ things or keeping track of what’s been strewn, so having little customs like this help to make sure we at least get some of this stuff in!

  4. Meredith says:

    Delish!! We love these kinds of days, and it’s so true, you HAVE to strew yourself, it’s so worth it 🙂

  5. Sarah says:

    I have found this to be true with anything I do–cooking, crafting, drawing. If I engage, the children engage. For our family, crafting is the time when we all seem truly “gathered.”

  6. patience says:

    This is a great post. I love the idea. And “strewing yourself” – I don’t like the word strewing, for synaethestic reasons, but I very much like the concept.

  7. Melissa Wiley says:

    Yes, it was a good reminder for me. With so much to do about the house, always, there is a real temptation to get the kids busy with something fun and then turn to the next task. More and more I find it’s vitally important for me to *stick with them* and remain engaged in the experience myself. If I leave, they start to argue. If I stay, we wind up having the BEST discussions! So in addition to their being more likely to throw themselves fully into the activity, whatever it is, my presence seems to create a calmer space for connecting with each other.

    Of course they go off and do plenty of things by themselves, too, but I guess that’s part of the point–the older and more independent they become, the more likely I am to over-rely on that independence and then we miss out on the very best moments of our days.

    Sandra has a good piece called Leaning on a Truck about “parallel play,” how doing things side-by-side like jigsaw puzzles or cooking or drawing tends to open up the doors of conversation. A quote:

    “Doing something non-verbal while talking has a special advantage: Silence is not awkward. Changing the subject temporarily to talk about the blocks or paints or puzzle is not really changing the subject. Fear and foreboding won’t cause people to leave the conversation or cry. It’s possible to pause, think, breathe, stall, collect oneself and come back to the topic in a minute. I have a near-teen here who sometimes needs to be with me a while before he gets to what he needs to say. That puzzle didn’t really need to be worked, but perhaps that child needed to sit with that parent.”

  8. Sarah N. says:

    Great post, Melissa. I’ve been trying to be fully present during activities more often. It hard for me though when I feel the pressure of so many household things that need to be done. Reading stories like this encourages me though.

    My 4.5yo asked me to draw with her yesterday and I said yes (another thing I’m working on, saying yes when I can even if my first instinct is no) even though my 13 mo old was getting into everything. I kept emptying a kitchen cabinet to entertain the baby and sat at the kitchen table and made wonderful swirly pictures with my big girl. It was a lovely time even if it was louder and more chaotic than I might have wanted it to be.

  9. Stephanie says:

    “Leaning on a truck” has hit on something very rare in our usual modern homes. We don’t have to have each other’s help for tasks like kitchen work (we have appliances now), or housework (more appliances, most of which make a lot of noise), or getting new clothes ready to wear (ever had a meaningful conversation at a mall? it’s not easy or natural) … just what DO we do these days that would encourage such moments?

    Ironic, eh? A culture so busy distracting themselves with stuff to do, do, do ends up needing something quiet to do or we lose track of each other.

  10. Helen Roman says:

    Dear Melissa & Kids 🙂
    Are you going to show us here all the drawings? I’m sure they will make a beautiful & Very Special Art Collection!
    Many hugs –

  11. Karen Edmisten says:

    What a lovely post. A couple of months ago, we spent time drawing for our family time. We had loads of fun, and the conversation turned to music, and we ended up showing the kids two Beatles songs on YouTube, including Yellow Submarine and Here Comes the Sun.

    And I so agree with you and with Leonie about how they will come (with interest and curiosity and willingness) when we start in on something *we* enjoy — love the phrase “strewing yourself.” Perfect!

  12. Leonie says:

    We haven’t drawn together for awhile – and I must get back into it…maybe I’ll drag out my nature journal and see if anyone else gets interested….