Challenge Your Inner Story Teller- by Chaz
Big 3 Takeaways
- Challenge: Tell a story (bedtime or otherwise) to your family before the week is up.
- Stories give you a chance to interact, mentor, and teach. Each story is a parable.
- Expand your story repertoire by continuing to read, learn, and grow yourself.
Challengemyfamily.com is all about fortifying families, and that especially means strengthening relationships. Here we throw the gauntlet down asking you to take on challenges, like (family dinner)!
This challenge is for you to tell a story to your family before the week is up.
You may think,
Oh, but this challenge doesn’t apply to me.
I am here to tell you, IT DOES.
My children aren’t into stories.
Oh really? Try one on them. If they aren’t eager for more after just a few minutes I will eat my shoe. Look at this pic below. This is a random bunch of neighborhood kids and every single one of them was eager to hear a story about ninjas.
I am too tired at night to tell a story.
You aren’t trying to win a PULITZER. Just give a solid 10 minutes to sharing something fun (I’ll share some tips soon).
My kids are all teenagers, fairy tales aren’t for them.
Tell them an honest-to-goodness real life story. My Dad told his boys accounts from history. He captivated us with stories about integrity using the Roman General Regulus from the Carthaginian War. We learned about courage with Leonidas and his brave 300. We learned about sacrifice through Shugart and Gordon in Blackhawk Down. There is a story for everyone.
If you need to brush up on some great historical stories- I wrote a book including 26 of them! Get “A-Z Virtues” for yourself or kids ages 10+ OR get the condensed version for kids here! While telling or reading them the stories they can even color the heroes in the A-Z Virtues Coloring Book. I got you covered!
It’s just me and my wife; the kids have all left the nest.
Still tell a story. Take a walk down memory lane and share a memory in detail and try and relive the moment for the first time. Relive the day you got married, or your favorite vacation, or biggest victory. I love telling the story of how my wife and I met.
Recipe of a Great Story
Telling bedtime stories are as good for you as they are for your children. I have found them to be uniquely therapeutic. Having all of your kids looking up at you, hanging on your every word, is such an incredible feeling.
Bedtime stories also have allowed me to exercise my creative muscles a little bit. Adults only lose their imagination because they allow it to atrophy with disuse.
Here are the 5 steps I take when cobbling together a story.
1. Select a protagonist, for me it is always my kids. My dad created a boy named Googenheimer and his sister Fredrika to serve as the main characters of his narratives.
2. Create a world that is interesting. Our stories have been in medieval lands, the old west, a space station, an alternate universe, and even ordinary reality. We have fought orcs near the gates of Mordor, and evaded aliens in a distant galaxy with Buzz Lightyear. Don’t fret about copyright infringements with your bedtime story.
3. Keep the storyline simple. I love the three act structure; setup, conflict, resolution. Start with a consistent opening. No matter what, I start my tale with, “A long time ago, in a land far, far away, there once was…” By starting out the same way, your children get in a receptive mindset. It also gives you a chance to quickly whip up some world building details.
4. Be didactic. These are your kids. This is a chance to teach them. Jesus used parables to teach for many reasons, one of which is that they are memorable and relay messages on many levels.
5. Finally, have a worthy opponent. The hero is measured by the opponent he faces. Darth Vader, Voldermort, Sauron, Jafar, and Ursula are all great antagonists because they are powerful, mysterious, and genuinely up to no good. Having clear hero-villain bedtime stories have worked well with my kids. But, I will wait to introduce them to the moral murkiness of anti-heroes like those of Punisher and Deadpool’s ilk.
The Fountain of Ideas
If you are telling a bedtime story, your kids will appreciate you and your efforts. They likely will not know if you are retelling one of Aesop’s Fables, a literary epic, a sci-fi movie from the 80s, or are making something up entirely yourself.
Running out of bedtime story ideas is a reminder to me to get back in the books and read, learn, and grow. My Dad used to take his kids out on the lawn into the desert night and we would all lie on our backs in our small patch of Albuquerque grass while he pointed out constellations and told us fascinating tales of their origin.
Why I tell Bedtime Stories
I laid my precious little boy into his bed and tucked the sheets around him. Marek’s eyes looked up at me—big, blue, and full of wonder.
“Daddy, you gonna finish our story? Please Daddy. You promised!”
“What story?” I replied.
“You know, the one with the knights and dragon, and, what’s the horsey’s name again?” He squinted his eyes as he searched the barely stocked memory banks of his young mind. “Oh yeah, Shallowfax.”
“I think you mean Shadowfax.”
“Oh yep, that’s it. The white horsey. My horsey.”
I sat down next to him and ruffled his hair, teasing, “You don’t like that story. It was boring and silly. Plus you look really tired.”
“No way daddy, you finish it. I love your stories. You tell the bestest stories dad. Pretty please? I will love you to-ever!”
Thus it was, night after night for weeks on end, back in 2010. Sara would ask me to put Marek and Ammo into their PJs and tuck them in bed. Then, after twenty to thirty minutes she would inevitably come over to the boys’ bedroom to see why I was taking so long. She would find me in the midst of an elaborate bedtime story. The boys would be up, wide eyed, and—to mom’s chagrin—sometimes standing on their beds wielding imaginary swords, joining me in a fight against an invisible foe.
Sure, I was not the best at putting my boys to bed in a timely fashion. But, doggone it; I had been away for a year, A YEAR.
When I left for Afghanistan the first time, Marek was a year and a half and Ammo had not even seen the end of his first month as a newborn. Despite a level of access to email and phone calls that my Grandpa would have killed for in Vietnam (he was a Marine—of the tough as nails Force Recon breed), I still only caught glimpses of my boys.
That first deployment was, by all rights, incredible. I was in a crack aviation division serving as an Aero-Scout Platoon Leader. We were flying missions over hostile terrain with some of the best pilots in Army Aviation. Every day was fulfilling, packed with leadership challenges and lessons learned. I loved our mission, the pilots, and the men on the ground.
Yet, still, I missed my family something fierce.
Everyone coped in their own ways. I dealt with the guilt I felt for volunteering to leave my wife and kids by writing long (novella-long) letters home with most of my spare time. In addition, I made many resolutions and goals like a kid on New Year’s Eve.
One of those goals was that I was going to optimize every minute I had with my kids when I got home. Telling them bedtime stories was on the top of the list.
I was pretty good about it too. Years went by. We had more kids and I would still end most nights by telling a bedtime story. After a while, however, I started getting complacent and I put less and less energy into the stories. The boys still loved them, they would have loved even a repeat story, but I was letting other priorities take over. Eventually the stories stopped altogether.
Then, one night, while I was putting the boys to bed, Gideon looked up at me and with his two year old toddler voice and said, “Daddy, gimme story. Please, Daddy?”
Hearing my youngest son’s sincere request for just a few more minutes of attention, just a bit of creativity, just a lil’ more love, brought back a flood of memories of when his oldest brother had done the same.
I remembered tucking in Marek when he was a two year old. The giggles, the awe, the eagerness to hear more all rushed back into my memory. Above all, I remembered how desperate I felt as a dad to make sure that I made up for the time away, to make sure these children knew I loved them with all my heart.
The memories were a call to repentance, to reprioritize, to cherish a golden and fleeting stage of my children’s lives. I looked at Gideon and said, “You know what Gid? A long time ago, in a land far away…”
So, that’s it. Go tell a story. It will be time well spent!
What was your favorite bedtime story while growing up?
The Wholehearted Dad