Like many parents, I enjoyed reading a bedtime story to my two sons each night before they went to bed. After the story was over, we would turn out the lights, and I would lie next to my sons as they fell asleep. Sometimes we’d talk. Other times my sons would be so tired they were sound asleep before I could turn out the light.
Then one night after the lights were out, my oldest son, Will – who was about three years old at the time – asked for one more story. But this time, he asked me to tell him a “story with my mouth.” That meant he wanted me to tell him one of my made-up stories, not someone else’s story from a book. And so I did. I just made up a story about the first thing that came into my mind. He loved it. So much so that he asked me the next night, “please tell me another story with your mouth.”
Thus a storytelling tradition was born in our family. Will is twelve years old now, and his brother, Connor, is ten. Just about every night since that first night Will asked me to tell him a story, I’ve made up an original story for my boys at bedtime.
When I see how important my storytelling is in their lives, I scratch my head to think how much our television and video-oriented society has lost in terms of the personal connections that storytelling brings. Before the invention of such “technological marvels” as television, DVDs, computer games, MP3s, and now “i-everythings,” a family’s evening was built around storytelling (along with letter writing, playing music or games, and reading aloud from books and poetry – other lost traditions). This oral tradition was passed down from generation to generation, and many of the epic stories we have today originated from this tradition until someone finally wrote them down.
Of all the things I do for my children, my storytelling is what they love the most. It has created a special bond between us, something that no one else does for them. They find that their day isn’t complete without one of my stories.
I also find that my day isn’t complete until I can tell a story with my children. Storytelling serves as a creative outlet for me. It is the perfect antidote to the cut-and-dry demands of work life, and puts perspective on the minor, nagging worries of the day. I hope that other parents will share my enthusiasm and passion for storytelling at home.