I’ve been writing a series of blog posts about my experiences as a young hippie mother in the mid-70s, and it made me realize again how important our stories are to our children and grandchildren. I often lament the fact that I didn’t record the stories my mom and dad told. I remember some of them but not nearly enough to satisfy me.
I have to admit that many of the stories from my younger days are not appropriate for younger children to read. I’d rather not give them any ideas. But there are plenty that are fine to tell, especially ones from when I was the same age as they are now. When my children were at certain ages, I thought a lot about my life at that age. So, why not tell them those stories? We should share the stupid things we did, the mistakes we made, the times we were heroic and the times we were cowards. It’s important for our kids to see us as human and not superheroes. When we look perfect, it sometimes feels too hard for them to live up to that height. I remember my daughter saying to me, when she was a young mom, that she didn’t think she could ever be as good a mom as I was. That made me feel so sad, and I started sharing my failures with her.
As a teacher in The Albany Free School, when talking to a student who had done something wrong, I would always share similar things that I had done wrong. I was not bad at the time, just making a mistake, the same as them. It’s important for children to know that we all make terrible mistakes sometimes, but we can change our ways and even atone for our transgressions if necessary. There’s always room for change.
There are funny stories and tragic stories. I have told my children and grandchildren about the time I stood up for a friend and was beaten up by a girl gang for it. Those girls kept after me, causing me to hide out. Later, my mother, who knew the leader’s deceased mother was very friendly with this nemesis of mine, causing me to feel very angry and betrayed by my own mom. What I soon learned was that my mother’s kindness to this very hurt girl caused her to look at me in a different way, and I was never bothered again by her. I learned a lesson that I could then pass on to my own kids and grandkids through an interesting story.
We all have our own stories and our own lessons learned. We often try to tell our kids to behave a certain way because we’ve already learned that lesson, so they don’t have to go through it again. But if we don’t then tell them the story, they probably won’t listen. In storytelling, they are entertained, and the lesson sticks. Think of Aesop's fables. How many of us remember those stories and the morals at the end? I know I remember many of them. “Slow and steady wins the race.” “Look before you leap.” “Birds of a feather flock together.” “Count not your chickens before they are hatched.” And the list goes on and on. Why do we remember them? Because they had stories to lead in to those important lessons. So, please keep telling your stories, even the ugly ones.