Jan 3 2011 6:38pm

Spec Fic Parenting: “Tell me a story”

Spec Fic parentingIn my estimation, it isn’t enough just to expose my children to the hidden wonder of a strong imagination. Oh no, one must exercise it. And while children by their very nature have strong imaginations, proper cultivation is the difference between a small gourd and one of those state fair super pumpkins in this hideously overdrawn analogy. So, I often ask my older son to tell me stories as well.

Son: Up in the sky, there is a pony, but he’s going to Puppetland.

Me: What is he going to do there?

Son: He’s going there to sleep. The Tooth Fairy is there, too.

Me: Up in the sky?

Son: Yeah! She lives in a castle up there.

Me: Aren’t there giants up there?

Son: Yeah, but she scared them all off into the woods, where they have to hide.

Me: Why do they have to hide?

Son: Because the trees bite them.

Me: Wow, sounds dangerous up there.

Son: Yeah. The giants want to eat the fairy.

Me: Eat her?

Son: Yeah, but she wants to eat them too. And there are dragons too!

Me: Dragons, eh? What do they eat?

Son: Fairies and giants.

Me: Geez, guess I’d better stay out of the sky.

Son: Yeah.

Now granted, I am sure this is much cuter to me than to others (the whole “Your kids are cute to you, and snotty rugrats to others” thing), but it does get at a point, which is that kids have amazing imaginations. This, honestly, kind of disturbs me as a fact. Not that they have such amazing imaginations, but that adult imaginations typically pale to theirs. I remember when I was a kid (hey, it wasn’t that long ago), I could raid an giant multilevel castle and ride across an entire kingdom in my backyard without a single prop.

So, the reason this kind for exercise is to try and keep that for as long as possible. I probably got to keep my imagination well trained for bad reasons (typical nerd in school sob story), and I don’t want my son to have that same issue. Granted, I might be self-fulfilling by cultivating said creativity, but I’d like to think I’m not.

So yeah, maybe it isn’t exactly AxeCop, but I am still amazed, seeing as I have no clue where he pulled all of those concepts from or how he decided to string them together. So, my fellow Spec Fic Parents, what stories have your children told you?

Richard Fife is a writer, blogger, and now arborphobic. You can read more of his ramblings and some of his short fiction, including his new steampunk serial The Tijervyn Chronicles (starting this friday) at his website.

1. Rowanmdm
While I'm not a parent, there is one exercise in storytelling that my family reminisced about over the holidays.

When I was somewhere in my pre-teen years I started making chocolate chip cookies with my much younger brother. I started making up stories to keep him engaged in the process of making the cookies. The butter was the rock that formed the mountain, and then we added dirt (brown surgar) and topped it with snow (sugar). The rivers and lakes got added (vanilla and eggs) and I never could come up with something good and consistent for the salt and baking powder, but I liked saying they were magic the best. Then the tornados or hurricanes came (the electric mixer), another snow fall (flour), more tornados and last of all we added the people (chocolate chips). There were many variations on this story as we made cookies over the next 6 or 7 years, but we had fun with it and the story still plays through my mind every time I make chocolate chip cookies.
Kenneth Sutton
2. kenneth
What strikes me is that unlike the pablum that is often served up for modern children, it's clear that children's imaginary worlds are absolutely filled to the brim with things that eat each other and are in conflict.
Richard Fife
3. R.Fife
@Kenneth YES! Granted, while my children get a fair amount of "real stories" mixed in with their educational drivel (see my Spec Fic post "Dora or Avatar?"), I have the feeling that this would be true regardless. Even young children understand conflict and yearn to figure out resolutions to it. It is something that doesn't make sense to them, and they need to figure it out. I, of course, am guiding this by letting them watch all those wonderful SpecFic films from the 80s I grew up on, like Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and Last Unicorn, in addition to stuff like Avatar: TLA. :)
Mieneke van der Salm
6. Mieneke
I think it is cute! I can't wait for my daughter to be old enough to tell me stories. At the moment she doesn't get much further than mamamama or bwabwa as she's nine months old, but she's already nuts about books.
7. Bonnie L Censullo
Imagination is the key to everything. If you read to your kids, and embrace the love of story-telling, their creativity explodes.

I've always been into SF/Fantasy, whether it be writing, movies or books. I take my kids to the Ren Faire and we walk around talking in an English accent. We analyze movies. "Gee, do you think that actor would have taken that role if he'd known his head was going to get chopped off?" My eight-year old is now writing a chapter book longhand, "The Quest". She's given herself a 4-page daily quota. My favorite lines thus far,

"Then she realized what he said. It's all in your mind. If you can believe it, you can achieve it. So she believed she could do the spell and everything was perfect."

She has decided to be published by 9.
8. wyoaramdillo
My son (age 5) and I started a running dialogue on his adventures with his stuffed monkey (named appropriately Monkey). This discussion has been going on for over a year. They have been Rock Stars, Kung Fu warriors, Starship pilots and Knights. My son even has his nemesis the Evil Dodo Bird (a magical evil genius)

I love the way my son crosses genres. In one story my son, the knight, battles travels through the enchanted forests, fights the Evil Dodo Bird's pet dragon and then fights the Evil Dodo Bird, sword against sorcery.

In another story my son, the Star Knight, leads his squadron of star fighters against the Evil Dodo Birds squadron of star fighters, robots and other bad guys for the win.

We have even written and illustrated some of these stories. This has prompted his siblings to create their own stories and to have my wife and I help write and illustrate these stories.
9. dral64
"Yoshy is a man-fox. He is 13 and lives in the woods. Yoshy is trying to find a friend. Meanwhile Yoshy's mom is gathering an army to kill him."

This is the opening of what my nine-year-old son has optimistically titled "Yoshy, Volume 1." Yoshy is the latest in a series of superhero characters he has invented and tried to illustrate. They seem to be inspired by his ongoing mashup of Star Wars, Marvel, Avatar/Airbender, Generator Rex, Spirited Away, and any other genre stuff that has ever come his way.

@Rowanmdm He does the same thing when we make cookies! Either we are giants or mad scientists (a la Dr. Vindi of Clone Wars) destroying a town...

@Bonnie L Censullo Bravo for your daughter! Hope her spelling is better than my son's!

@wyoaramdillo The stuffed animal menagerie has its own adventures in which the younger members have become proficient martial artists and ninjas...

And his idea of "playing" with Mama is a monologue of these adventures, delivered while jumping on the bed and demonstrating any necessary ninja moves.

Gotta love the imagination of the younglings,
10. ladytwinoaks
Ahhh... my five year old. His imagination has been running rampant since he was an infant. He has always taken toys from different sets and used them to play a completely different game even before he could talk. Once I finally got him to start talking.. he never stopped. Still. To this very moment. Most of the time he wants to tell stories. I've started a story and stopped just to have him finish it. He adds characters and takes off in a completely different direction. In his stories, creatures and beings can do things that nobody has ever thought up (his sword carries cheerios in the hilt - in case you get hungy). Part of the fun is that his stories generally become epics and are continued on at another time. I'm amazed by all children's capacity to "think outside the box" as well as the capacity to retain memories. Wow. As a parent, I sometimes feel like the dunce my kids think I am.
11. sestoryteller
Can't agree more. I teach classes about how to tell silly stories. Kids come up with the funniest, most interesting, most surprising storylines. The parents are the ones I have to teach to let go and be silly. If parents can just ask questions and let the child's imagination drive the storytelling, it's easy family fun. The story may not win a pultizer, but hey, having quality time with your child, encouraging them to use their imagination, and linking something fun with literacy learning (think writing homework).. who needs the pulitzer?

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