Making Time for the Art of Storytelling
Life is busy. Parenting is life on fast-forward-hyper-drive. There is so much to do from the logistics and hands-on caretaking (feeding, dressing, picking up the 4 million toys, going through the back packs, homework, more snacks, wiping faces and tears and bottoms), and the driving to school and driving to music and driving to sports and driving to the tutor. There is the research for the best nursery school and most amazing pre-K soccer and can’t live without SAT tutoring and college applications and driver’s ed and clothes shopping because they never stop eating and they never stop growing. And the laundry. The Laundry deserves its own blog so we’ll just skip right over that. The Laundry might even get its own Twitter handle.
So, we’re busy. If you ask your friends or colleagues how they are, there is an excellent chance that the answer will be “crazy busy.” I get it. I’m busy too.
If you look at school curriculums now versus when we were growing up (yes, ours were chiseled onto stone tablets but they existed nonetheless), there are all sorts of mind-blowing opportunities for children to learn now that didn’t exist in the 70’s and 80’s and even the 90’s. My parents had offered to buy me a desktop computer for my college dorm room, and I turned them down because 1. It would take up my whole desk and where would I write? and 2. What kind of geek did they think I was?? Now kids have computers in their phones. They have tablets, laptops, and the occasional home desktop computer. But, with all the new technology and content to learn, something’s got to give. I’ve notice that while my boys certainly were taught to write (and their writing was brutally edited by their mother as well), the art of storytelling and creative writing seems to have gone by the wayside to some degree. While 3rd graders can create PowerPoint presentations and middle school students can easily complete a research paper, I didn’t see a lot of creative story writing assignments. And that is where we as parents can fill in the gaps…not by making the kids have one more thing to do but by telling them our own stories.
Some of my favorite childhood memories were of my two grandfathers telling me stories about their younger days and their careers. My dad often told us stories at dinner or bedtime about his college friends’ pranks and funny times from family vacations. I loved listening to these stories and could listen to them over and over again. Were some of the facts exaggerated to make a better story? There is a good chance that the answer is yes. The details and the sound effects and the hyperbole make for a better story.
So, in the crazy busy paced of today, can we still make time for the story? I think so. In the car, at bedtime, at the dinner or breakfast table…all good opportunities. My children will agree that there are times when they do not want to hear one of my gems (whether it is my own story or the re-telling of a family tale): during a football game, during a movie, during How I Met Your Mother, or when their friends are within earshot. I have agreed to comply with these requests.
But, do try to make time for the storytelling. Aside from entertaining your family (and yourself), it is time well-spent passing on a wonderful tradition. Your kids may not remember every time you drilled them with flashcards, but they will look back fondly at the times you sat on the beach or the couch or in the car and told them funny stories of your childhood or college or teen years. My kids are still hearing new stories and saying “you never told me that!!”…good to be able to still keep them on their toes. They also love to hear stories about silly things that they did or said when they were little.
Whether all the facts are completely accurate or not is not the most important thing. Poetic license is fine! Describe the characters in your tale. Make it entertaining. And the most important thing? Have fun telling the story…what your children will hear loud and clear is that you like spending time with them, and you never know…they might start wanting to spend more time with you to hear more stories and perhaps even share some of their own.
Why is all this important? 1. Stories are fun. 2. Laughter improves your mood and your health. 3. Happy relationships make for a better life. So start talking about things aside from what needs to get done! Have a better answer than “I’m busy” next time someone asks how you have been.
Life goes fast. It is precious. Look up from your phone and enjoy every single moment.