So I was working in my home office, and got a phone call from my wife (who called from the kitchen - we have 2 phone lines now) asking if I could just pop down for a couple of minutes in a couple of minutes. “Sure,” I said, and came down the stairs.
Turns out that I was the first customer for my daughter’s lemonade stand. What I saw was my daughter sitting primly behind a small table, a poster with some yellow scribbles approximating the shape of a lemon, a pitcher of ‘lemonade’ (it was actually water) and some cups.
She asked me which cup I wanted, then proceeded to ignore my choice and pick a different cup, and poured the lemonade into it.
After enjoying my drink, I found out that almost everything about the setup was both my daughter’s idea and creation - she set up the furniture, got the cups, told mommy what to put in the pitcher, and made and fastened the poster to the table.
Watching her play pretend on a scale like that is going to be fun.
It’s been a little over a month since I wrote about my story time with my daughter, and a recent email exchange with Douglas Nerad prompted me to write an update.
I have been hacking away at this, and, by and large, I seem to have got the hang of it. Which is to say, I found a formula for telling stories that tends to result in higher approval ratings. Unfortunately, I don’t know it well enough to share with you. I’ll keep mulling it over and write something later.
What I do want to share with you now is that, by this point, I seem to have developed a minor cast of characters to draw upon. I probably shouldn’t find this remarkable, but I do.
Frank is the most popular character request by far. I first introduced him in a story that had the princess (my daughter) running away from the castle, into a forest that got stranger the further in she went. All of a sudden, she stumbled into a large clearing with an even larger house. She knocked on the door three times, and all three times it was answered, but the giant was so large, and she so small, he never thought to look down. At any rate, they do finally meet, and become the best of friends.
Frank has a magical hat. I brought this hat into another story after I found out how much my daughter loved the giant. This hat, always the size of a giant’s head, does one thing, and does it well - if a normal sized person were to crawl under the hat (assuming the hat was right-side-up on the ground), that person would almost instantly grow to be the same size as the giant — for as long as they are wearing the hat. Remove it, and the wearer is back to normal. This hat has been featured in many stories at my daughter’s request.
Cassie has made a few ‘appearances’ in story time as well. Not really much to say, here, but upon some reflection, I’ve realized that none of my special characters really match any of the common story archetypes (this might also interest you).
The princess has a pet! This pet looks kinda like a cross between a parrot and a rainbow. Tickle birds, while wild, are extremely easy to turn into pets — they’ll swoop down and tickle you, and if you laugh, then they’ll become your pet. They’re also smart, and help little princesses get (or stay) out of trouble. Tickle birds will always turn threatening bad guys into friends, merely by tickling them into helpless laughter. This trick is especially handy for recovering out-of-control stories, let me tell you.
One thing I learned recently was that in Britain, there exists (existed?) a tradition where fathers make up tales to tell their children. As far as I’m concerned, this is hearsay, since I haven’t looked into it at all, but Tolkien was one such British father who told his children stories made up out of his head, and those stories eventually turned into the stories we get to enjoy today.
If you’re a dad practicing this tradition, British or not (I’m Canadian, and darn proud of it, too), I’d like to hear from you. Just as important, I’d like to encourage you to get inspired by the ideas I’ve outlined here. All my writings here are CC licensed, but this particular post has been specially licensed with this version, so you’re welcome to take what you’d like.
I have recently begun a new bedtime tradition with my daughter. After I tuck her in with lights out, she asks me to tell a story out of my head.
So I decided that this was an excellent opportunity to practice my impromptu storytelling skills. She knows I’m making this up, because she’ll tell me who (or what) she wants in the story. I have to somehow weave them into the story and make it somewhat good too. Oh, I also always put her in as the main character of the story. Sounds pretty neat, doesn’t it?
I suck at this.
However, I’m not especially concerned. After all, she’s almost 3, and as yet is pretty undiscriminating. If my story is really lame and short, she’ll patiently ask for another one. This means I get to practice, and hopefully in a few months I might actually be pretty good at improvising a story on the spot.
A recent not-very-lame story I managed to eke out is told as follows.
Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived in a big castle. This girl is the most beautiful in all the land, and she was a princess! Her name was...
and I used my daughter’s name. She always gets a kick out of this.
Now, the princess had a best friend, Cassie, with whom she loved to play. One day, Cassie took the princess up to the tallest tower in the castle. As they stepped outside, they could see for miles around as the wind blew through their hair. Cassie said, “Princess, would you like to fly today?”
… at this point, I look at my daughter, who considered the notion, and indicates she would in fact like to fly.
So Cassie called out, “Eagles, eagles! Come to me! We wish to fly today!” And two giant eagles came flying to the top tower of the castle. Cassie and the Princess got on the eagles, and they took off.
At this point, I talk about how they could see all kinds of things from the sky, and the eagles did loop-de-loops, and they flew under, over, then through the clouds, and they all had lots of fun.
The eagles then flew back to the tower to drop Cassie and the Princess off, and Cassie said, “Thank you, eagles!” The eagles replied, “You’re welcome! We had lots of fun, and we hope to play again! Would you call on us next time you want to fly?”
I then looked at my daughter to see what opinion she had on the matter, and she said she’d love to. So I made some closing remarks, and wrapped up the story.
As you can see, not the greatest story ever, but I was really excited about the way it was set up. Hopefully I can come back to this and develop it a bit more.
My daughter has a new friend. Her name is Cassie. She’s invisible.
My daughter and Cassie do all kinds of things together. They’ll dance, play, eat, sleep, go for rides in the car, and fight (complete with follow-up apologies, kisses, and hugs).
And while my daughter hasn’t made up her mind to start using the toilet on a regular basis, Cassie will not only use the potty, but asks for “privacy”.
I knew invisible friends would be fun to have around, but this is entirely too funny.
My wife and kids dropped me off at work one day, and were heading over to Grandma’s place. Along the way, my daughter made up this little ditty:
Bumblebee my friend,
Bumblebee my friend,
Not my friend.
The tune was pretty catchy, too.
My wife gave our daughter a sticker she found while we were at the mall just as we got into our car to go home. Always delighted with such gifts, our daughter was very content to play with this for awhile.
But it was not long into our trip home when troubles arose. The announcement of “Sticker gone!” was what started it all.
“Gone? Well, what happened to it?” asked my wife.
“Stacey took it!”
“Stacey??” My wife and I looked at each other in surprise. Stacey was our best friends’ kid. “But she’s not in the car!”
“Um... pretend Stacey took it!”
“Oh, that’s horrible!” I said. “Do you think Stacey will give it back?”
“Mmm-hmm!” our daughter agreed, with considerable enthusiasm.
“Did she give it back now?” I asked. I could tell nothing’s changed.
“Well, where is it?” I like asking the tough questions.
And I think it was at that point where the conversation kind of got derailed. But the story isn’t over yet.
The next day that our daughter had to get into the car, she discovered something in her car seat. We didn’t notice it before because it was quite dark when we got home. It was the sticker that Stacey took.
“Hey,” said my daughter, “Sticker back! Stacey brought sticker back, mommy!”
Good for Stacey. The pretend one.
 Names changed to protect the guilty.
A month or two ago, we gave our daughter a present. It was a black doctor’s bag with lots of plastic toy doctor tools - stethoscope, blood pressure taker thingy (tell me what they’re called!), thermometer, reflex hammer, magnifying lens for ear/eye, scalpel, bandages, the works. It’s pretty cool.
She took to this toy like a duck to water, and loved to play doctor with us. She’ll also get us to play the doctor, probably because she wants a clue on how it’s done. Ever sensitive to the doctor-patient relationship, she always tells us that the tests she has to do won’t hurt, and that she’ll make it better.
One time, I was the patient, and I said I had a boo-boo on my arm, could she please fix it. So she goes through the battery of tests, most having nothing to do with diagnosing or fixing the problem I said I had, and decides that surgery on my leg is in order. So she gets out the scalpel and proceeds to start ‘cutting’ into me.
Reacting like any sane patient would, I cried out, “No! No! I don’t need surgery! Don’t cut into me!” To which she replied, “No, daddy! No hurt! Look: no point!” And indeed, the scalpel she had didn’t come to a point, but was rounded off.
My wife and I have decided to teach our daughter the days of the week. Everday brings a smile to our faces, because when we tell her what day it is, her face just lights up, she claps her hands, and exclaims “Oh, boy! Oh, boy!”
This morning my daughter woke up cranky. So, while my wife, daughter and I were standing in the kitchen, and my daughter just finished wailing about some grievance done to her by one of us (totally inconsequential, I assure you), I tried to soothe her by patting her on the head.
“No, daddy! No petting!” she said. “[I’m]* no puppy!”
Right you are, kiddo. Noted and [b]logged.
* My daughter currently tends to speak in the third person, so the “I’m” in this case replaces her given name.
One day, my daughter re-discovered a deflated nursing pillow, and asked for it to be inflated. My wife, tiring of blowing it up by mouth yet again, decided to fetch a pump to pump air into it. My daughter loved this, and set about playing with the pillow.
Later on in the day, my wife went though the kids clothes, putting away the ones too small to fit, and setting out larger versions. This task wasn’t done, as the boxes containing the clothes hadn’t yet been put away.
All this, of course merely sets the stage for this funny story. Please remember that my daughter was, at the time of writing, only 27mos old. Now I can start the story.
I was home and futzing about in the kitchen when my daughter ran in with one of the shirts too small for her. She managed to get her head and one arm in, and needed help with the other one. No problem. Still cool she managed to get 2 out of 3, though. I help her get the other arm in the sleeve, pull down her shirt, and she ran off to watch tv with her mother.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, my wife (her mother) espied her in the shirt and exclaimed, “Oh, I love that shirt! I wish you could still fit in it!” My daughter, upon hearing this, left the room and ran back to me.
She told me she wanted the t-shirt off. No problem. I help her take it off, and she runs away again - back to the family room to be with her mom.
It was also in the family room that the aforementioned air pump was lying. My daughter puts the shirt down on the ground, grabs the pump, inserts the correct end into a sleeve, and commences pumping for a few moments. My wife watched this with some surprise and amusement. Then, with some fanfare, my daughter extracted the hose, held up the shirt, and proudly exclaimed, “Bigger, mommy, bigger!”
If only life was that easy.