Parent's Guide to Bedtime Storytelling, Part 1
"Mom, how you you fall asleep?"
From my son, the question is real.
The clock read past 9pm on a school night. I had asked him, yet again, to stop tossing and turning and just sleep already. He struggles, nightly, to fall asleep.
I thought about the question. "Well," I said, "I tell myself stories."
"Tell me a story."
I stumbled right into that one. And I'm tired at that time of night. I want to sleep more than he does. Yet I know the magic of a Bedtime Story. I know that twilight time between sleep and waking is the place of Neverland and Wonderland and Narnia. Of course I say yes.
Which is when I hit the Parent Wall. What kind of story can I tell?
I remembered my own childhood. Every once in awhile, my family would set up the slide projector. My dad beamed images onto a blank wall. For some reason, he had slides of Czech Folk Tales. I could use that inspiration.
After all, the bedtime story just needs a change of names, and few tweaks, and it's perfectly told, right?
Our first story was Ian and the Ramen Bowl, where Ian was kind to an older lady washing dishes by a creek, this was a long time ago, by the way, before dishwashers. She gave him a magic ramen bowl that made endless amounts of his very favorite food. She told him magic words to start and stop the bowl. A thief saw the ramen feast and stole the bowl. Thus, the ramen insanity began. The thief could start ramen but couldn't stop it, so ramen filled his house and spilled out the windows and out the door.
Ian heard about the mess and raced to the scene. He saved the day and everyone in the village had an epic ramen party.
This story was a simple swap, using his name and his favorite food.
At that point, I had no idea that I had set a much bigger story into motion. A new expectation for bedtime storytelling followed by quiet as he drifted off to dreamland. My creativity would be challenged. My assumptions about fairy tales and folk stories would be questioned. My stories would be received with laughter (and actual tears). My understanding of the Bedtime Story would grow. And my heart would melt.
Because when a child says, "Tell me a story," the very saddest answer is no.