Have I mentioned before that I think you can bond with your kids over stories?
I was moved to tears recently by a talk at a church conference about a father who spent time prayerfully considering each one of his children and their needs. He knew how to carve beautiful pictures into wood, so, as a gift for his children, he decided to choose an image that would represent both the person they were and the person they would become, along with inspirational words to help get them there. One child, who was particularly shy, received a lion, because this father knew somewhere inside this son was the heart of a lion who could do anything he set his heart on.
(Here's a link to the talk)
I don't know how to carve or create an even remotely decent piece of tangible art for my children, but I'm going to write each one of my children a fairytale, a short story that reminds me of them in some way. These stories will have a moral at the end, of course, but I hope, within that moral, I can fashion something that will let them know how highly I think of them and what potential I think their lives hold.
What got me thinking about this, besides this talk, was a perusal of these books recently:
As you can tell from this smattering of covers, there are a million editions of these, The Fairy Books by Andrew Lang. There's The Blue Fairy Book, The Violet Fairy Book, The Olive Fairy Book, The Orange Fairy Book, etc...
There are thirteen volumes altogether, and each one is fat, chock full of fairytales from all over the world. Each story within these books is as diverse as the colors they are named for. (We have seven or eight of these in the cheapo Dover editions, but I really like the new covers pictured at the top with the open books). You can get the entire Andrew Lang collection on Kindle for $2.99, or buy the whole collection in one set for twenty-five dollars.
There's a reason these collections are being republished and reprinted and perused again by many.
They are awesome.
They are full of fairytales from all over the world, and they are just good stories. I sat down to look for a specific tale the other day, and, an hour later, I was still reading well past where I'd started.
Read these with your kids. Find meaning and morals in the stories—you are supposed to! That's what they are meant for, to teach us things, to make us think. And they are interesting too.
I don't think you have to be a writer to present a story as a gift to your child. You could look through these books on your own and find a tale or two you think particularly represents your child. You could copy that story and give it to your child for Christmas. A gift from you with meaning and love.
I'm dead serious about this—stories are so important. They have so much meaning. Think of every really great talk or speech, the ones you truly remember. Most of them tell a story. There are eagles and lions and turtles and cheetahs and princes and kings and fair maidens and brave female warriors in these stories. There are so many things you could draw upon to represent your individual, unique child. And I think the exercise would force us all to examine our kids in ways we maybe haven't before.
If I run out of time to write them each their own fairytale, I'm going to do the same. I'm going to search these fairy books for stories that represent Mary, Lucy, Calvin, Shaemus, and Flannery. Their own unique selves with their own unique stories.