No matter what you do in your life,
what you create, what career you have,
whether you have a family or kids, or make a lot of money…
your greatest creation is always going to be
your life’s story.
Because it’s like this container
that holds all of those other things.
~ Jonathan Harris, artist
As hard as it is for your children to believe, you had a life before you had them.
The best way to share who you are as people, not just parents, is through storytelling. In story, you can bring to life the people, places and things that made you who you are.
And though it's true that some people are natural born storytellers, inclined to hold you hostage as they unravel a tale of the spectacular woven from the ordinary, no one is better qualified to tell your story than you!
An oral tradition of your family is just as important as the photographs you take.
Think about it–when your children were lap-size, before they could speak or read or even recognize letters, you read books to them. How did they stall going to bed e.v.e.r.y. single night? "Read me a story," they'd beg, and I bet more often than not, you did.
And they never tired of reading the same book over and over and over again, until you were begging them to choose something new.
Whether by oral tradition or written account, why is sharing your life stories with your children so important?
- It introduces them to people, places and events they might not otherwise know.
- A family is greater than the sum of its parts; sharing your past enriches their present.
- It helps them better understand their relatives–their motives, choices and idiosyncrasies.
- It can build a sense of identity, family loyalty, pride.
- It strengthens generations.
Even if you think your life has been relatively boring, it has all the essentials of good story–characters and conflict, good guys and bad guys, twists and transformation, passion and desire.
Once you've stopped reading books to your children, after they've transitioned from learning to read to reading to learn, when they hit those tween years and can engage in meaningful conversation, it's time to start telling the stories of your life.
Tap into your wealth of memory and share the stories of your youth…
- portraits of your best friends
- how you spent Summer vacation or other memorable trips
- favorite holiday memories
- your easiest/hardest subjects in school
- how your parents ~ their grandparents ~ disciplined you
- your relationship with your siblings, their aunts and uncles
…the stories of personal transformation…
- your faith journey
- achieving goals
- mastering a new skill
- dealing with difficult circumstance
- overcoming obstacles and on-going struggles
…your love story with your spouse…
- how you met
- what attracted you to him/her
- when you knew he/she was "the one"
- your conflicts
It doesn't really matter what you tell, just that you tell.
Over and over and over.
My parents are no longer living and my grandparents passed away before I was old enough to remember their stories. What I would give now for them to open doors to their youth and young adult years….
Which is motivating for me to tell my stories; to urge my husband to tell his. In writing this, I realize we haven't enough.
There's simply no such thing as "enough" or "too much."
If you aren't from a family of storytellers or don't quite know where to begin, you might find it useful to use a ready-made journal as your guide. I have a copy of To Our Children's Children: Preserving Family Histories for Generations to Come by Bob Greene & D.G. Fulford that has wonderful, guided questions.
Don't assume your children already know all your stories or don't care to know.
The older they get, the more they'll appreciate knowing, especially when they have children of their own. And if your own parents or grandparents are still living and you realize you don't know more about them than you do?
Start asking questions before it's too late. The answers are buried treasure just waiting to be unearthed.
Your turn: Can you think of additional reasons telling families is beneficial? DO share in comments!!
Thanks to those of you who have subscribed in a reader or by email! I hope you're enjoying reading my parenting series as much as I'm delighting in writing it. And to those who've taken time to email or comment? You have no idea how encouraging your words are to ME!! xo
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