The Art of Storytelling

story-storytelling-word-clouds-cloud-words-tags-related-to-myth-legend-digital-tablet-35485420Today I read a friend’s post about New York’s famous “Black and White” cookies. I shared with her that my Dad used to buy giant ones when were kids, but I probably ate too many and now I get queasy just looking at them! But I started to remember how he introduced me to them. He was telling me some story of his youth and mentioned how his father would buy them for him. I didn’t understand what he was talking about because I had never heard of them. So on our next trip to the bakery, he pointed them out to me and bought a box of them home. I realized that my father ALWAYS did that. Asking my father a question would often result in a long, Cliff Huxtable-esque series of stories. But sometimes, he also took the time to show me what he was talking about. Once I saw a Ouija board in the background scenery of an old episode of Sanford & Son. I didn’t know what it was, but described it to him and asked him what it was. He not only told me – he went out and bought one for me. That was my Dad’s way. What he knew, he taught and he showed. What he wasn’t sure about, he pointed me to our big set of green and white World Book encyclopedias and encouraged me to look it up.

Of course, I have passed this down to my children. They ask me a question, I explain, then I Google it if I need to show them a picture, or enhance the story. Last summer, my children attended a funeral of an elderly family member and began asking questions about his life. For several months afterward, they would continue to ask about other family members, both living and dead. Where were they born? What did they do? How did they die? Every day, they would choose someone else to ask about and I would give them short stories about these relatives. When I shared this with their Sunday School teacher, she reminded me that this was a perfect example of storytelling. This is how family histories and oral traditions are passed down from generation to generation. I thought about this and immediately remembered how well I can recite the bulk of my maternal family history – after years of attending annual family reunions as a child and hearing our family history told each time. As a child, most of my recitation was rote, but now I can tell the story with much more depth and understanding and pass it along to my children – and even to other family members who don’t know the stories.

Let us never forget to tell stories – whether about our past, or the world around  us. Our children, especially, need to shape their worldview in context of their experiences and that of their ancestors. Never ignore a question – it can often lead to great teaching moments, moments that I know I have treasured since my own childhood.

What stories are you telling?

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The Art of Understanding Personalities

personality

personality (Photo credit: hang_in_there)

One of the many lessons I have learned over the years is that trying to understand the heart of individuals aids greatly in learning how to deal with them. If you get where they come from, you know where they’re going. Here’s an example: Perhaps someone you know socially is very bossy – I mean always wants to be in charge. Once you really get to know them, you may find that they have NO control at home, or on their job. It doesn’t excuse their behavior, but understanding where they come from can keep you from taking things personally. Just as you should know your audience when teaching, writing or speaking, you should understand personalities when dealing with individuals.

This line of thinking starts at home, with our spouses and our children. One of the most exciting things to me about parenthood is  watching my children’s personality develop. This morning I was listening to my 5- and 7- year old have an intense discussion/mini-argument. Izzy (7) insisted that he was right because he was older. Yvette (5) declared it didn’t matter who was older. Earlier this year, it dawned on me that Izzy is the debating negotiator. The conversation never ends with this guy! Yvette will also stand her ground, and will go toe to toe with her big brother. The difference is, once she makes her point, she drops the mic and walks away. Understanding these personality traits help me deal with them on different levels.  Don’t get it twisted though – I do NOT negotiate with terrorists, and my child will NOT just walk away from me! I’m still the Momma! 🙂

The Age of Remembrance

SevenLast week, my firstborn child turned seven. As I continue to get to know my children and their personalities, I have come to call my intense and sensitive son Izzy my twin, and my feisty 5-year-old daughter Yvette my alter-ego! As I have my serious heart to heart talks with them about things they are facing in school – and yes, even at their young ages, they “face” issues at school – I often let them know that I understand what they are going through because I had the same experiences when I was growing up. I like to let them know that they are not alone and that “Momma knows.”

But I had an interesting epiphany a few days after Izzy’s birthday. I have many childhood memories going back to pre-school days. I remember not liking the monkey bars because I hated that “burning” sensation I felt on my hands when I slid down the wooden pole. When I put my son’s age into perspective, I thought back to 1976, the year I turned seven (go ahead, I’ll give you a second to do the math!). Not only do I vividly remember events of that year and beyond, but I can recall my feelings about many events. It made me feel even more connected to my son, because now I can relate to him more specifically the thoughts and feelings associated with the situations I will be counseling him on. I was, and still am, quite the introvert and often kept my thoughts and feelings to myself. Fortunately, Izzy is more apt to share with me during our fireside chats.

That was the year my sister graduated from High School. On the morning of her graduation, she had developed some strange temporary palsy which caused the right corner of her lip to curl up slightly, so that she appeared to be sneering in many of her photos. She was quite upset by this – what graduating senior wouldn’t be? I remember crying for her inside and wishing that it would go away before the day was over. It was also the year my father bought what was to become my favorite Cadillac – a beautiful midnight blue, 1976 Cadillac Sedan de Ville. Shortly afterward, we had to travel to his home in Richmond, Virginia for his cousin’s funeral – the first funeral I had ever attended. Izzy too will attend his first funeral next week, and I have already begun preparing him for what he will witness, Remembering the questions in my head back in 1976, I feel I can better prepare him for what he might be feeling, as well as seeing.

I am thankful for what I am considering this powerful memory tool, one that will help me to continue to be as engaged as possible with my little ones. My hope is that by the time they enter those extremely awkward pre-teen years, they will have felt a greater sense of connectivity with me and know that they are not alone. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to be their friend – I’m their Momma FIRST! But at least they will know that I didn’t just become an adult overnight – I had to grow up and experience many of the same things they are experiencing.

(WriteNow Challenge Day 19)

Take Time to Think

Thinkers

The other day, I was having a heart to heart talk with my 5-year-old daughter Yvette. She was telling me that she is sometimes slow to finish her class work. Knowing she’s a good student, I asked what the issue was. She said that sometimes she makes mistakes and it takes her a while to erase her answers.  I asked her when does she notice that she has made a mistake. Knowing the perfectionists my children are, I also asked if she was erasing because the answer was wrong, or because she did not write as neatly as she wanted to. She said that after she writes her answer, she “thinks about it again” and realizes her answer is wrong and she corrects it.  She exclaimed, “But it takes so long to erase everything!”

The first thing I do when faced with these dilemmas is stop and think before I answer. Knowing how children process things, I always try to be very deliberate, simple and concise when giving my children advice. I explained to her that when the answer comes into her head, before writing the answer, think about what she is about to write.  I was trying to get her to see that if she could realize the answer was wrong after writing it down, then perhaps she could make that determination before writing her answer (of course, I used simpler terms!). This way, she could save time by not writing the wrong answer. She understood and said she would try.

This is a lot like life. There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes – but if we would take a moment to stop and think before we make the mistake, we wouldn’t have to spend so much time erasing the mistake!

Think about it!

(#31WriteNow Challenge: Day 7)

That’s Not Cute!

I’m going to keep this quick – just jumping on my soapbox and then jumping back off. I love when people share their children’s cute photos and funny videos on social media. Vine has given many the opportunity to catch those cute 6-second scenarios on video.

‘Howsinever’…if I see one more video of some child, who just finished learning how to walk and still can’t even pronounce the word ‘Instagram,’ twerk, dutty wine, booty-pop, drop it like it’s hot, throw up gang signs, use the N-word or recite foul hip hop lyrics, I’m going to scream! When did this become acceptable behavior? These babies didn’t take these photos/videos themselves…their parent or someone else responsible for them did!  Sometimes I watch and then ask myself, “Little girl/boy, where is your mother?” Then I hear her off-camera laughing and cheering the child on. I’ve even seen one video where the father was in the shot, dancing right along with his daughter!

This is not cute, y’all. I’m not even talking about the social media aspect – that you have left this electronic footprint of your child for all the world to see. But even in the privacy of your own home, why would you think this is okay? Kids winding and grinding against each other; toddlers holding up Corona bottles like they’re sippy cups. Madness! As my mother would say, “When you see her swinging around a pole one day, don’t say nothin’!”

*Climbing off the soapbox now*

 

Creativity in Children: A Lost Art?

Atari 2600 Game Console

Atari 2600 Game Console

A recent local news report indicated that children were becoming less creative. Duh! With the advent of more sophisticated electronics, including telephones, music players, video games and the like, no wonder our children are becoming less creative. And this is nothing new. I did a Google search to see if I could find the details of the actual news report from the morning, and I found article after article about lack of creativity in children – dating back to 2010 and even earlier!

Yes, there are great advanced skills that can be learned from playing electronic games – technology has its place. Since the original days of the joystick, I’ve heard that video games often build good hand-eye coordination. I remember playing Ms PacMan and Donkey Kong for hours on my old Atari 2600 game console (y’all don’t know nothing about that!) But as children, we balanced (or were forced to balance) video play with good old-fashioned “gaming” – playing board games like Monopoly, Life, Trouble, Scrabble – games that required strategic thinking. Physical activity outside the house is almost non-existant, except for the basketball games you find at the local park. I remember my parents having to maneuver our car down the neighborhood streets like slalom skiing, trying to avoid hitting the girls jumping double-dutch and the boys playing pick-up games of basketball and football. I can’t remember the last time I saw girls outside jumping rope!

My parents used to buy us board games and books that were past our years. I can remember having a Parcheesi board and I was too young to understand the written rules of the game, so I did what any other creative child would do – I made up my own! And I played that version of Parcheesi for two years, until one day I decided to go ahead and read the real rules of the game. My children have LeapFrog Leapster games, which are all educationally-based. But I never have to pry them from their little hands. They are just as content playing “cars” on the floor, or re-purposing an item, turning it into a walkie-talkie, robot, ramp, or some device other than what it was made for! I enjoy watching them at their creative moments. It makes me think of  the  3-story’dollhouse’ I once made from an old cardboard box, and the dresses I made for my dolls – out of old socks. Let’s just say once I cut off the toe of the sock, it became a fashionable tam for Barbie!

Creativity is not being replaced by technology, not if parents play our cards right. We need to help our kids remember some of the things we did before all the electronics. They will have just as much fun!

(#31WriteOn Challenge: Day 4)

Just Say No: The Holiday Toy Edition

“A Christmas Story”

Up until now, I have considered myself fortunate in that my children have never been whiny or continually asking for toys every time they see a commercial on television. Actually, that has happened in part because the only channels they watched up until this year were Sprout, Nick, Jr. or PBS Kids, neither of which really play too many commercials. However, this summer, my 6-year-old son Izzy decided he was too old for pre-school television and now opts to watch NickToons, home of the Power Rangers franchise, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Supah Samurai, etc. These are the shows that are chock-full of commercials for dolls, action figures, games and the like.

After 6 years of safety, I am now exposed to the constant cries of “Ooo, I want that…” and “Mommy can I have that?” But I have to say, I’m pretty proud of myself. Instead of going on some long tirade of why they can’t have a toy or how Daddy and I have not yet decided what you’re actually getting for Christmas, I take the easy route and just say, “No.” What parents sometimes fail to realize is that children don’t always respond negatively to the word “no.” They don’t always begin to whine, cry or protest. It’s actually kind of funny – sometimes all I get from them, especially Izzy, is “OK.” Five minutes later, they ask for another toy. I say “No,” they say, “OK,” and we’re golden! 🙂

In Christmases past, I have actually been thoughtful about what we bought for them, even if there was no direct request. We knew the characters the kids liked, so we based our choices on that. And like any good parent, we included educational toys and clothes (how many hat and scarf sets did YOU get for Christmas?). But this year, I went the route of my parents. Since there were so many requests, instead of hiding the Toys ‘R Us catalog from them, I actually let them peruse it every day, over the past 2 weeks. They studied it like there was going to be a test on it, and they asked for the moon. But they were warned that they would only get a few things from their list. Going through the book with them this morning was HILARIOUS!! There were a few ground rules about what could NOT go on the list – no plush toys, nothing with tracks, no large toys that took up too much space, nothing with too many parts and pieces. They knew the rules so well, that they automatically skipped pages in the book that didn’t apply. Side note: children also know how to tell themselves “No”! It’s also funny that they understand the meaning of the famous phrases, “Batteries not included,” “For ages 3 and up,” and “Each piece sold separately.” One day, I hope they will also become familiar with “Some assembly required.

So the word “No” has its place in our home and can live peacefully in your home too. C’mon…say it with me…”N-n-n-n-n-o-o-o-o-o.” That felt good, didn’t it?! 😉