All kids have ticks, weirdnesses, and their own idiosyncrasies. In essence, there is no perfect kid- and sometimes those very strange things turn out to be advantages under the right conditions. I think as parents we just hope they don’t turn out to be factors in anything like becoming sociopaths. Anything above that baseline, and I think we learn it’s all good.
Sometimes those things turn out to be learning disorders of one kind or another, and Number One Son (or Primo, as opposed to Segundo, or number two- no less important, just older and younger) has been dealing with his share since he was born. For such a bright kid to try to understand why some things take so much longer, or feel impossible to accomplish, or seem easy for his little brother- has been hard for him to assimilate into his identity. He’s the bright, funny, always cheerful kid who wakes up singing, has a big squishy heart, and kicks himself way too hard when he fails. In honor of this wonderful, complex child I am posting his new short story (without the five illustrations on black construction paper he drew with it), and he was limited to 150-350 words:
The Sleepy Ghost
Tick is his name and he lives in a grandfather clock. He is a sleepy ghost who is always dozing off, and forgets his job to set the clock. His brother Tock has to polish the clock so everyone can see it.
The other ghosts in the old mansion get frustrated when the clock does not remind them to get up at night. They cant get their chores done on time without the clock running well!
So Tick asked his mom to make him some cobweb and dust bunny ear muffs to block out the sound of the clock and maybe he could sleep.
She zoomed around the mansion collecting her supplies. She adjusted them so they fit just right and soon Tick fell fast asleep in his spot in the clock.
He wakes up regularly now and grabs his tools. He keeps the clock on schedule and makes sure it always says tick-tock!
This was all Primo’s work. He loves to write stories. I wondered if the one above was influenced by the knowledge of his fathers narcolepsy, but he said no. He has been purposefully making up stories since he could speak, and I guess I am partly to blame for that. Instead of reading, I still tell them Primo and Segundo stories at bedtime with the lights out. The quality can vary, depending on how tired I am, but they usually seem appreciated and I try to make the stories novel and exciting, and they always have the same five sentence introduction, which seems to be something they like to count upon hearing.
The only time I crashed and burned was a story I’ll never forget when I tried to use the nightly story as a teachable moment. We were all over tired and irritated, which I should have paid attention to. Before bed, I tried to get them to pick up something- anything- and put it away. I felt like I had been nagging about it for days. So I told a story about alternate universe boys, with different names, who did not pick up their things and how they disappeared. Well, you would have thought I had threatened to burn down the house or something. Crying and yelling ensued, much like I imagine bad plays went over in the Theater of Ephesus. “Boo!Boo!” “Stop it!” “I hate this story!” “Change it!” rang out and there was much jumping up to grab as many stuffed animals and toys and cram them into their beds, under the covers. Then wails of despair followed, such sadness and despair as I have ever heard. I grabbed my two terrific kids and hugged them, promising to never tell a story like that again. It took half an hour of hugging and promises to calm them down, and the next morning Primo told me he knew what I was trying to say with the story, and that I did not need to do that. They still didn’t pick up their toys (or shoes, or books. . .), but we have since worked out better means of motivating and rewarding for when they do.
It’s funny how many things narrative can accomplish (intentional or not) such as reveal, instruct, and even cause fear. There is a reason humans love the call of stories, as Robert Coles has put it. Even in the most blighted places, they still have stories. They still have voices. I only hope using narrative helps Primo better find his with time.