My children know when to ask for stories. They’re stalling for bed, I’m at my weakest, and that’s when they strike.
Every night, no matter what time it is or how desperately I need
sanity chocolate peace, it’s the same question.
I’ve already answered a million and one throughout the day and after we’ve survived the MealCleanupBathSnackToothbrushBooks marathon, I’m questioned out.
I just want the kids to be asleep. Now would be the perfect time, and five minutes ago would be even better. The day needs to be done because I am.
But the question, asked simply and quietly in a dark room, always breaks through my exhaustion.
“Will you tell me a story?”
I can’t refuse that simple request. I can’t resist the earnest plea. And so I summon the very last bits of my energy and creativity to fill the space between Once upon a time… and The End. Never once have I regretted it.
Because stories are powerful and magical.
They transport us to different places and let us try on different lives.
Stories release our smiles, tears, laughter, outrage, relief.
Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving. – Madeleine L’Engle
Look around: Shelves of books. Queues of movies. Collections of songs. Volumes of fairy tales, myths, and parables. All of them tell a story, and we can’t get enough.
We surround ourselves with stories while we live out our actual stories and then dream of or worry about other possible stories.
Yet our hearts never seem to tire of stories. Each of us in our own ways are asking the same question: Will you tell me a story?
Whether around our tables with those we love or on our devices with strangers across the world, we have a deep desire to hear and tell stories. It’s a desire that starts young, before we can even express it with words.
Childhood hungers for stories.
Just like I feed my children when their little tummies are hungry, I want to feed their hearts and minds when they hunger for stories. And just like it matters what goes into their tummies, it matters what goes into their hearts and minds.
Forgive me if I sound melodramatic, but it’s true: The stories we choose matter, because how we see ourselves and how we see the world is wrapped up in the stories we believe and the stories we tell.
And if it matters, I want to pick wisely for my children while they still look to me for help and guidance.
I want to tell them stories of courage and compassion. Because we’re not always brave and kind. To laugh with them at stories of playfulness and creativity. Because sometimes we are bored and uninspired. To connect them deeply to stories of adventure and adversity and perseverance and generosity. Because life is uncharted and tough and full of opportunity.
I want to share good stories with them. And by good, I don’t mean stories of rainbows and sparkles and happy endings, but stories that make our hearts race and our throats get a little lumpy. Stories that ask questions and nudge us to think hard thoughts. Stories that are simple and clever all at once.
And so I read to them.
Sure, we watch our fair share of shows and listen to songs and enjoy movies. But when my children are hungry for a story (and it’s more often than I realize – just like with food), we open a book.
Not every book is a winner, but hundreds and hundreds of them are. By faithfully sharing books together, we’ve found authors we love, illustrations we pore over, and characters who’ve become friends.
We turn pages a little faster when we find the bear or wake him up. We smirk and giggle our way through repeating Oops! and Just Go to Bed! We consider thoughtfully the admonition to make the world a more beautiful place. And we kiss Nicholas goodnight as he snuggles in for his winter’s nap.
The stories of my children’s lives are woven together with stories from books.
And so I read to them.
Because at the end of each day, I can kiss their sleeping heads and sneak out of the dark room knowing I’ve answered one of life’s most simple and powerful questions: Will you tell me a story?