A picture of anger, a picture of love

Last night during our drive home Leo broke two of the rules of the car—there are only four—and he lost the privilege of getting to pick which songs we were listening to.
He was angry.
When we walked through the door, he took off his coat and asked for paper and crayons.
He drew a picture of him hugging me. Then he drew a big X across it and hung it on the refrigerator.

I told him it made me sad, but I was also secretly a little amused—and pleased.
There are so many ways our 5-year-old could have conveyed his frustration. Instead of throwing things, yelling, kicking, hitting, screaming, crying, fussing, whining, or jumping off the couch, he made a picture.
I’ll take an angry picture any day.
I suspect Leo got the idea from one of our books, No Hugs Till Saturday. But I didn’t mention that then. It seemed important for me to acknowledge that these were his feelings, not a book character’s.
So I recognized that he was angry—and why. I reminded him that he had made choices that had earned him his punishment. And I told him more than once that I love him whether he’s happy, sad, or angry.
Soon enough he was crying in my lap.
When he had calmed down, his father suggested that Leo might like to make a new picture.
He got right to work, and presented me with a new picture of us. Here we are, in his words, “loving each other.”

He also made one of him and his Baba. You can’t really miss the hearts.

Because he was on a drawing spree, he kept going. This one shows him and his little brother.

This one shows him with God.

And this one shows our whole family.


Somehow the fact that our first family portrait was drawn after anger and a loving reconciliation makes me treasure it even more.
Today as I was looking at Leo’s drawings, I found myself thinking of how often I fail to obey God. I get upset about problems even when I have created them for myself. I find myself showing the least patience and grace when I’m with the people I care about the most. And even though I crave reconciliation with our heavenly father, I postpone seeking it out.
When I went to confession two weeks ago, I was moved by the sense of peace and encouragement I felt afterward in the chapel. So I understood how Leo felt last night when he cried in my arms.
What relief, what inexpressible joy, to rediscover that unconditional love Jesus demonstrated so profoundly, so perfectly on that Good Friday 2,000 years ago.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.