“Mom, I have a story to tell you!” Sometimes, I am greeted excitedly at the door, and sometimes, I hear this later in the evening, as we are eating dinner or working through homework. The teen who starts with this introduction launches into an excited re-telling of something that happened at school or on the bus, often spinning the effect of the story for the specific listener—drawing out the action, leaving out some detail or other, or adding in suspense and emotion.
Over time, the stories have changed as the children’s lives have become more complex. Gone are the days of stories of the deer outside the classroom window or a special activity at a friend’s birthday party. Today’s story, for example, included a misguided miscreant who pulled a knife on another student, and the conversations that resulted from that occurrence. These stories, they are not designed to encourage a parent to sleep peacefully at night. But they are stories of events that need processing. They are stories that allow the teller to think about the information, to figure out how it fits in the big picture of life, and to know that someone has heard… is listening.
At times, I wonder how we got from, “Mommy, can you tell me a story?” to “Mom, I have a story to tell you.” Not that I am complaining. As I think about the path we take, I realize that stories are woven to help us figure out certain aspects of our lives. With very small children, parents tell stories to help them understand things that are happening or to alleviate their fears. As kids grow, the roles switch, if we let them. The kids take the lead in telling the stories they need to tell. Stories emerge from their experiences, and they often weave in their fears, their hopes, their dreams, allowing them to process the full range of emotions in their heads.
I hope that as they move through their lives, my children will keep telling me their stories. I hope they continue to find value and comfort in the stories they tell and the stories they hear. And I hope this is something they pass on to their own children.