For as long as they have been old enough to speak, each night as we tuck our kids into bed they have asked my husband, Dan, and me, “Can you tell us a story?” And they really do mean tell them a story, not read them one. They want a new one, one that’s all their own, one that was made just for them.
Some nights we are up for the challenge, and we manage to spin captivating tales about worms being dug out of the garden bed, or a little girl making friends with her neighbor, who happens to be a bear, or a wild cat that gobbles up children until a brave boy and his two sisters rescue them. Of course, if anyone but our own children listened to the stories they would not categorize the tales as captivating.
But no one else is listening. It is only our children’s opinions that matter, and they are eager to be pleased, assuring us each time that we are the best storytellers in the world. They are so earnest that sometimes I am tempted to believe them.
However, there are many nights when both Dan and I draw a complete blank. Four sets of eyes stare at us longingly as we frantically rake our minds for something to say, only to come up as empty as one of Pooh’s honey jars.
Over the years we have developed a strategy for handling situations like this. It’s easy to implement, and it has never failed. In response to the pleading, “Tell us a story,” we simply tell the story of our child’s day, as though it were a story – which it is.
We begin with, “Once upon a time there was a little girl/little boy…” Here we pause dramatically and look seriously at the child to whom we are telling the story. We add the words, “whose mother/father loved her/him very much,” before continuing on. Each time we mention “the girl,” or “the boy,” we pause and add that line. It makes the story important, even if nothing other than breakfast, lunch, and dinner happens, because being loved makes everything important.
Once we have that core theme established, we continue on with a summary of their day. It looks something like this:
“Once upon a time, there was a little girl whose mother loved her very much. One day, the little girl, whose mother loved her very much, woke up and rubbed her eyes. She swung her legs out of bed and pulled on her favorite purple dress (we describe the outfit our child wore that day) before skipping into the kitchen.
There the little girl, whose mother loved her very much, found her father, who also loved her very much, mixing up a batch of blueberry pancakes. The little girl chatted with her father as she set out paper plates, forks, and mugs for milk. Before long her two brothers and sister stumbled into the kitchen, and a few minutes after that her mother, who loved her very much, came in too. She was wearing her fluffy gray robe, the one that had magic in it, and the little girl ran over and wrapped herself in the long folds of the soft robe as she hugged her mother’s knees…”
We can add as much or as little detail as we want as we walk our child through their own day. They love knowing what is coming next and correcting or adding details that we’ve missed. Sometimes we purposely make mistakes just so the child has the delight of correcting us.
This sort of storytelling is a simple way to engage your child’s imagination and, at the same time, help them realize that they are a part of a living, breathing story every day. It’s an imaginative way to say, “I love you,” which, I think, is what all good stories are intending to say anyway.
Featured photo by freepik