When my children were young I used to tell them stories at night to help them fall asleep. The two boys shared a room. I sat on the floor, and under the faint glow of a nightlight I made up stories, invented characters, created adventures. The boys listened but they never fell asleep until I ended the chapter and started their quiet music—a CD of piano sonatas.
Sometimes I would weave their own young problems and struggles into the plot line and embed carefully crafted advice or possible solutions into the twists and turns of the story. Often the stories were based on my own adventures, strategically embellished to make a point, but most of the time the stories revolved around an unlikely yet more impressive hero.
Conflict in the story was always resolved with an act of kindness or cooperation, teamwork or courage, compassion or generosity. The longest story had 18 chapters fueled by the questions, the curiosity and the imagination of my two young boys as they listened and thought about what would happen next. The story had 18 chapters because I learned how to listen to my children, as I was getting them to listen to me.
Prior to my children I had the distinct inability to tell a story. I couldn’t remember stories to tell someone else later, I couldn’t recount an anecdote as an interesting story, and I could never make up a story on demand. Now I see stories all around me, in the ordinary events of the day. I see heroes too. And as I make my way through my day I think about the story I want to tell as I decide what is the best thing to do. My children taught me how to do that.
Under the faint glow of a nightlight I learned how to listen to my children while I was getting them to listen to me.