Friday, June 24, 2005

Storytelling

I recall bedtime with our first born. Life was different then. We’d spend an hour in bed together, singing songs and nursery rhymes we knew, making up songs, telling stories, reading stories, playing games and eventually drifting into sleep. When our second child was born I still did all that – but not quite as often. I had a left and a right side so that each child could still snuggle in close to Mum. I didn’t always lead the singing – sometimes I was tired enough to just let the eldest child lead the singing and often she sang us to sleep.

With the third child, life is much fuller and by the end of the day, I still tuck them in to bed, but singing songs and telling stories is sooo much harder, less frequent. Sometimes I’m so tired that I don’t even want to speak! Actually, it isn’t the singing and storytelling that is difficult, once we start they are quite refreshing. It’s feeling like it that is so hard. Lying on the bed with them, feeling the engulfing tiredness, it’s as if I can’t find one creative thread to inspire me to tell a story – especially one that is energetic, exciting and adventurous. Thankfully our eldest is usually ready to share one of her stories. Also, I realise, that it’s OK for me to take a back seat. They tell the stories through their conversation. As they’re nestling into bed, they say what comes to mind and the gentle chitter chatter of conversation leads them to a peaceful entry into sleep.

However, I’ve discovered a storytelling technique that truly does inspire and refresh me and satisfies the children – as well as being in alignment with my values. Here’s an example of what works for me…

I’ll begin with, “Once upon a time, not so long ago, there lived a …..” And in that pause, one of the children readily volunteers an object. If all three of them suggest something, I use all three! It doesn’t matter – it’s a story – and you can do anything with stories. I’ll then lead to brief descriptions of each of the objects. For example, “Once upon a time, not so long ago, there lived a horse. That horse’s name was … “Pooh.” (Accompanied by mischievous giggles. There is no editing of these stories. We accept what is offered, not necessarily agreeing with it but still accepting.)

“Pooh was the colour of …purple (giggles!) and chestnut. He lived most of his days in a fenced paddock, eating grass and being a horse. When it rained, he … climbed a tree (giggle at the visuals ) or stood in the paddock with his back to the wind and rain. Pooh had a companion that would often stand on his back, also feeling the wind, the sun and the rain. It was a willy wag tail. Little Willy would stand on Pooh’s back, wagging his tail, picking at insects that lived in Pooh’s mane, and doing whatever else it is that wag tails do. At other times, Little Willy stood at Pooh’s feet. They were companions, they didn’t try to be. They just were.

Little Willy became mates with a girl wag tail. Together they built a nest in the tree in the paddock. They chose a spot that was far out on a branch, away from snakes searching for eggs, but under cover of branches, to shelter them from the wind and rain, and to shelter them from currawongs or other birds that might prey on their eggs. They collected small twigs, .. dry grass, … hair from Pooh’s mane, feathers, fluff from thistles.

When they’d built a sturdy nest, the little girl bird laid two eggs. The eggs were the size of the tip of your big toe. She sat over those eggs, keeping them warm and dry. Little Willy shared sitting over the eggs too. They each were able to collect food for themselves and to feel the sun, the wind and the rain, as well as sitting on Pooh’s back or standing at Pooh’s feet.

Eventually the shells of the eggs became thinner, as the birds inside grew bigger. One day there was a tap, tap, tapping sound from inside the eggs. The hatchlings were making their way out. They were ready to see the outer world. When they came out, they were wet and floppy. They couldn’t hold their heads up. With every breath, their skin became drier and their bodies stronger. Their bodies became covered in feathers. All the while, Little Willy and his mate fed the little birds until they were strong enough to fly and feed themselves. ….And that’s the end of the story.

What I basically do is frame the stories around cycles of life. Examples of this are endless! As I tell the story I feel myself using all of my senses, imagining how things feel. As I describe how a seedling grows up toward the sun, I imagine myself feeling the warmth of the light and I feel my body moving. I feel the roots moving through the soil. I can smell the earth. I feel the footfalls of an ant along my stalk. All of this imagining and feeling isn’t there when I first begin telling the story. I’m tired remember. All I want to do is be in my own quiet space, but somehow, as we progress through the story, the visualization nourishes me, allowing the thoughts of the day to be replaced by an understanding of how truly wonderful life is.

Just wondering….
If Industrialism removed the man from the house, Schools removed the children from the house and Feminism removed the woman from the house, will Technology make home based learning easier and thus help the family return to the home?

© Grace Chapman.