I don’t mean to brag, but I’m kind of a big deal in certain circles. To be more specific, I am currently polling very well with Kindergarteners. My oldest is in Kinder and begs me to come eat lunch with her. I am very aware that the coolness factor of having your mom eat lunch with you and your friends is a limited-time commodity, so I’m riding this wave as often and as far as it will take me.
The very first school lunch date happened early on in the year when none of her friends knew me at all. I was enjoying observing her in this new environment with all these new people, places, things, and ideas. Everybody was talking all at once, but one little boy’s story triggered a memory from my childhood. I said aloud, “Oh, that reminds me of the worm collection I started one rainy afternoon when I was five.” A hush settled over the crowd and I had every set of eyes and ears, as well as their undivided attention. After I had finished the worm story, they asked for another one. And another and another until the bell rang for recess. The rest is history. By now, every time I come to lunch, the Kindergarteners make a beeline for me in the cafeteria, elbowing each other to get a seat within earshot. They remember all the stories I’ve told them so well that they are able to make specific story requests and sometimes even add certain details that I forgot to include.
What could be the explanation for a boisterous group of five year olds to stop in their tracks and eagerly fall into complete silence at the promise of a simple story? I think they want to know us. As prone to believing the world revolves around them as most kids are, it would appear that our kids have a real desire to discover us beyond the surface-y stuff like our favorite color or flower. This is very good news, right? We all desire to be really known, don’t we? Being vulnerable to your children by telling them the stories of how you became the woman you are provides them a time-traveling window into your life, soul and history. I believe children need this. Knowing YOU is an integral part of knowing themselves.
Story-telling has been a big part of my approach to parenting. Some stories are funny; others are sad. Some have a moral and lesson; the rest are just for laughs. I tell my own stories, I tell the stories of my siblings, parents, and grandparents. I tell stories of faith and miracles and all things awe-inspiring. I remember babbling on about anything and everything while pushing my then six-month-old in a stroller as we paraded through our neighborhood. Now she’s six years old and can recite all the tales by heart. I love what story-telling has done for our relationship – particularly stories from my own personal arsenal. As she is growing up, maturing, and turning into her own wonderful person with complex emotions, my stories that recount moments of comedy, hurt, embarrassment, elation, or awkwardness are now relatable to her and provide her with a measure of comfort – her own mother has been there and gets it. For our future, I hope my vulnerability will set the tone and, when the time comes, will mean that she feels comfortable coming to me with all her developing stories, even if they’re embarrassing or painful. Because no one can love her through those moments like her father and I can; I desperately want her to see me as her listening ear and shoulder to cry on.
Our stories make us human. They level the playing field. They take something that is black and white and flat, and add color, dimension and excitement. You make yourself real to your child when you delight them with your life’s story. Don’t miss this opportunity to know and be known by your child. And, hey, if opening up is hard for you to do, I’m telling you…just test the waters with a group of Kindergarteners. They’ll make you feel like a rockstar.