Erle Stanley Gardner. Agatha Christie. Dick Francis. I’ve always loved reading mysteries and I’ve read so many that I can usually guess ”who dunnit.”
In my late teens I took a writing seminar with a mystery writer. My first question to her was “Do you know the ending when you start writing?”
She laughed and said the only way you can write a mystery is to know the ending before you start. Mystery stories, the author told me, are written backwards. You have to know how they end.
Our children though do not have the imaginations or experience to see how their stories are going to end. Our children have no idea of how their little adventures will fit together to create a big story. As parents and as adults in a child’s life, we are the keepers of those special moments. We have the job of helping our children see who they are and who they can be.
Our job is to tell stories that make life less a mystery and more an adventure.
It is in the telling and retelling of stories that help our children learn to use their imaginations to see how their story might end. We need to tell anecdotes not just about our children but also about the world around them.
It’s our choice. We can either tell the stories that help our children see themselves as courageous, caring and responsible human beings, or we can tell them other kinds of stories where the endings are not as hopeful.
It’s easy to let the positive stories about our children slip away. Yet, there are tales everyday that can be told, and tales that our children need to hear.
Our nighttime ritual when the girls were preschoolers was for me to tell them the story of our day. It was a perfect time to recount the positive events of the day. I’d start our story of the day with getting out of bed, having breakfast, getting ready for school, the car ride to school, riding home from school, lunch, the books we read in the afternoon, snacks, dinner, getting ready for bed. It was an ideal opportunity to interject events that stood out.
I’d describe what I’d seen, how I felt, and try to sum it up with a word.
“Dana had her shoes and coat on and was helping Hannah as I walked downstairs this morning. It felt good to be ready to go to school a little early this morning. Dana was really organized this morning, wasn’t she?”
“Kitty and Nicole came over to play. Dana pushed Kitty is the swing and showed her how to pump her legs. Hannah helped get snacks ready for everybody. I think you were both kind and considerate.”
“Hannah set the table for dinner. Placemats, napkins, forks, knives, spoons, plates and water glasses. It felt good to see the table ready for dinner. Hannah did a lot of work.”
Our children do not have the imagination and experience to know what actions they are doing that will help them become a bigger better person. They do not know enough to imagine were they should be or could be headed. The world will tell our children what’s wrong with them. Our job is to let our children know what is right with them. Tell your children how each special moment ends. Don’t let it be a mystery.