A while ago my oldest son graduated from a crib to a big kid bed, and started asking me to tell him stories at night. I didn’t mind too much considering I could lay down along side him at that point, so I obliged pretty willingly. Who doesn’t enjoy a little father-son time right before bed? Plus, as part of the bedtime routine, it would calm the guy down and get him to go to sleep faster.
As any amateur story teller would do, I started with Goldilocks and the Three Bears. In fact, that’s the only story I told for several consecutive nights. It wasn’t long before he said “not that story, tell me a different one.” So, I tried to remember another story or two, and each night would tell him a new nursery rhyme or old fairy tale that I could remember. Pretty quickly I ran out of stories to tell him, and I found myself at a bit of a loss. He wouldn’t allow me to repeat any stories I had already told him, so I had to do what any reasonable adult would… I googled it. There I am lying next to my son, flipping through my phone, struggling to find some short story that I can tell him, but everything I come across is way too long, confusing, or — frankly — really dumb. Of course I start losing his attention looking around for something that will work, so, what else can I do? I start making it up… and I guess that’s where the stories begin.
I should tell you, that I’ve walked out of his bedroom slightly disgusted at my lack of creativity. In my tenure as a story telling father, I have admittedly disappointed on more than one occasion. You should also know, though, that I have silently patted myself on the back a few times for the clever tales that I’ve woven. I can’t say I’m completely terrible at it. I’ve been known to thicken the plot with a twist here and there. I’ve caused tears a time or two, elicited cheers, and incited a significant amount of laughter. I can’t say I’m all bad at story telling, but if you consider my audience, you’ll realize that I only really impress when expectations are fairly low. I should also openly confess my cunning intentions with some of these stories. I have, on more than one occasion, used a story to covertly motivate a young mind toward a certain behavior. Characters like Minder Max, and Minder Mindy have taken to the stage to heroically demonstrate the behaviors I’m hoping for in my own children.
I suppose what I’m trying to caution is that if you decide to read any further –and mind you, I think we both realize the unlikelihood of that scenario– you may later find yourself highly motivated to listen to your parents a little more, or share your toys with your siblings. You may want to express to others your need to use the restroom before it’s too late, and you just might find yourself pulling hair less often. Please at least know that these subliminal messages are meant to make you into a better human being. Heck, if it works on you, maybe it will even work on your kids.