“Grandpa, tell me a story! Pleeeaaassseee!”
Can you picture it? A young child snuggled on the couch next to their grandpa. Face turned upwards. Listening intently as Grandpa launches into a story about the things he would do when he was a young boy.
Or maybe grandma is more the storyteller in your family. Can you remember it? Did you ever have the privilege of being that child?
I can remember it clearly. Sitting in my grandparent’s farmhouse, next to my grandpa’s big recliner as he started to tell me a story. Stories that might not be important to anyone else, but stories that held great meaning for me.
You see, he would tell me stories about when he was a little boy. He would tell me stories about when he would go searching for the cows in the evening. He would tell me stories about the different animals he would see as he ran barefoot through the pasture to bring all the cows home safe.
Now, my grandpa never won an award for storytelling. I honestly wouldn’t put him into the ‘master storyteller’ category. That title is a bit hard to claim when you keep falling asleep in the middle of telling your story! And yet, those stories meant the world to me.
They are stories and memories I treasure. Moments I’ll never forget. They are memories I hold near and dear to my heart even though my grandfather has been gone for almost 15 years now.
And now I have the privilege and the joy of seeing the stories from another perspective. You see, now it’s my parents and my husband’s parents that are telling our children stories from when they were growing up. It’s my grandma telling the stories I know and remember so well to her great-grandchildren, my children. I’m no longer the wide-eyed kid looking at my grandpa or my grandma as they tell me stories. I have the joy of watching and listening as my children make memories with their grandparents and their great-grandmother.
Have you ever done that? Have you ever watched with delight as your children listen to their grandparents tell stories? Have you ever had that honor, that opportunity, that joy?
But it does beg the question: What is it about stories? What is it that makes the stories so relatable? So memorable? Why do stories above all other forms of communication live on in our hearts, our minds, and our memories for so many years?
Connecting Through Stories
If you were to take a notebook and poll the people you meet in a given day at the grocery store, in your neighborhood, or at the fruit market, most people would agree that stories are important. Most people would place stories as having an important part in their life.
And when you stop and think about it, this is very true! Life is filled with stories! From the very beginning of your life, you were surrounded by stories. Fairy tales. Nursery rhymes. Storybooks. Even movies and television shows tell a story. Stories have surrounded you from the very beginning.
And yet just because stories are all around you, it doesn’t make them important. What makes stories so important is how you connect to them and what you learn from them.
Think about it like this: If someone tells you that long ago young boys used to have to go out barefoot in the pasture and run around until they found all their cows and bring them home to the barn, you might remember that tidbit of information for a while, right? But my guess is it wouldn’t rank very high on your list of things to remember. There’s no connection to make with a random fact. There’s no way to relate this random tidbit of information to your life.
But, if your grandpa sat down on the couch with you and over a shared bowl of popcorn started telling you a story about when he was a boy, you’d want to pay close attention. And when he told you that one of his responsibilities was to go and collect the cows to bring them back to the barn, you would start to picture him running through the pasture yelling for Bessie the cow. And when he launches into a story of how he saw a deer standing at the edge of the meadow watching him and how he came to a quick stop to gaze back at the deer so he wouldn’t scare it, you can almost see it happening. Or how about the time when he was out in the field all day with the cows and he found a cluster of rocks in the shade to sit and eat his lunch? But when he went to sit down on one of those rocks, he realized at the last second that it was a porcupine and he narrowly missed sitting on all those sharp quills!
All of a sudden, this random fact of fetching the cows from the pasture becomes interesting. It’s connected to you because it happened to someone you love. Even though you weren’t there to experience it with him, you can see it happening
Stories are Memorable
You see, stories have an impact on your heart and on your life. And when stories impact your heart, when they resonate with you, it makes them memorable. In some cases, stories are impossible to forget! You might not remember the lesson that was taught through the story until you sit and remember the story itself. But as you remember the story, the lesson taught through it remains connected and by extension, you’ll remember the lesson. It’s really interesting how that works, isn’t it?
And it’s no wonder that many of the greatest teachers of all time teach through stories. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are a good many teachers who do not teach through stories, but do you remember them? The great teachers, the ones who are remembered throughout the years, tell stories to drive their points home.
Or think about books, in particular your favorite books. You see, there are books that transport you to another time and another place. Books that you’ll remember long after you close the back cover. These are the great stories. The ones that sweep you up and carry you along inside the story, allowing you to feel like you’re a part of the story as it’s happening.
You see, this element of story is where the “sticking power” comes from. The ability to connect with the information being given. The ability to latch onto a concept or an idea and allow it not only to be heard, but to internalize it and allow it to become real to you and a part of your life.
Stories are important. Stories are memorable. In fact, stories are essential to life.
Take the Time to Tell Stories
And yet so often it feels like telling stories is a waste of time. And, let’s face it, there are a million and one things pulling on your attention! So how do you balance it? How do you navigate the tension, the push and pull between telling stories and feeling like you’re wasting time? Between what you know is good and beneficial and important and the pull of everything else that needs to be done?
Well, it’s not easy, that’s for sure! Navigating the difference between what feels like the most important and most urgent thing to do and what is of lasting importance but doesn’t have the same urgency is incredibly difficult!
So often it comes down to making a decision. Making a decision to know what the most valuable things in life are and making a decision to keep those important things as most important.
Take the time. Make the time. Work to create the space for your parents to tell stories to your children. And make space in your life to tell a few stories of your own. Maybe it’s something simple like talking about your favorite shirt in high school or maybe you tell about an experience you had or a favorite Christmas present you received.
Don’t worry if you’re not a master storyteller. Don’t worry about making the story long and drawn out and the length of a novel. But try to work storytelling into your life. Give your children that anchor of connection with you as they continue to grow.
It won’t be perfect. And not every grandparent will take the opportunity to tell stories – much as you may want them to! But you can do what you can. You can take the time to tell stories of your own and you can help create the space for grandparents and great-grandparents to tell their stories, too.
Teaching Through Stories
But the beautiful thing about stories is that they help you learn and grow no matter what part of life you’re learning about. Stories from grandparents and great-grandparents about when they were young are amazing and incredible for learning about the ones you love and what their lives were like as little kids. Fun and silly stories from your childhood that you tell your children are amazing and help create an even tighter connection between you and your children.
But did you know that even stories of hard times can help you connect? Even the stories of difficulty can help your children learn even more. The other day, one of my daughters was struggling with her math lesson. As I sat there, working with her step by step through the process of solving this equation, I started telling her about how I approached math as a kid. You see, I’m not naturally gifted in math – well, not most kinds of math. I can balance a checkbook down to the penny, but ask me to divide large numbers in my head like Matilda and I’ll stare at you like you have five heads until you give me a calculator!
I started sharing with my daughter how many times math was a struggle for me. How many times I sat at the kitchen table with my dad after dinner as he walked me through my math and patiently explained things over and over and over to me. (I told you math was not my strong suit!) I told my daughter how I had to make a decision to keep going. And how I remembered the challenge it was to keep going sometimes.
And you know what? She connected with what I was saying. In my opening up and sharing that story of struggle from my childhood with her, it gave her a renewed confidence to try again. It gave her hope that she’s not the only kid on earth – or even in this family! – that struggles with math. This simple story helped change her outlook on this math worksheet she was struggling with and it made all the difference in the world. She approached this math concept with a different mindset and she mastered it!
That is the power of stories! That is the beauty of stories! Now, I’m not saying that every lesson you teach in your homeschool day has to be in the form of a story from your childhood. I mean, there are only so many ways you can come up with a story to go along with 2 plus 2 equals 4! But in those moments where you see the opportunity, don’t hesitate to share a story. Don’t hesitate to connect what you child is learning to something greater. Because when all is said and done, while they’ll still remember that 2 plus 2 equals 4, they’ll remember the stories, the connection so much better.
Stories Leave a Legacy of Love
For hundreds upon hundreds of years, many societies did not have a written language. And yet, we know so much about these societies based on their oral traditions – stories passed down from generation to generation so the history of their people would be remembered and not die with the ancestors or the leaders of the village.
In very much the same way, stories leave a legacy. And when someone you love is telling the story, the legacy left is one of love and compassion and knowledge. It becomes one of understanding and wisdom. It becomes a legacy of love and memories to cherish even in those times when the original storyteller isn’t with you anymore.
And isn’t that the dream? To be able to leave a legacy for your children, for your grandchildren? Stories are such a vital, meaningful, and important tool in passing along the legacy.
Not only that, but stories influence and leave an impression on the listeners. It’s almost like links in a chain: When a story is told by someone you love, you listen with interest and pay attention. That interest makes the story itself memorable. Because the story itself is memorable, the lesson taught in the story is tightly interwoven with the story itself. And even if you don’t remember the lesson, there are certain times when you’ll remember that story. You’ll remember that connection you had with the storyteller. And as you remember the story, the memories and the lessons will come flooding back to you. That’s where the legacy comes in.
Oh, you might not see the results right away. So often, stories are told and heard in childhood and they full extent of the wisdom and the lesson isn’t seen until many years later. But the story is there. The story has been told. The memories have been made. And the legacy of love is cherished throughout the years.
Make Time to Tell Stories
So often, time has a tendency to escape. I know I’m guilty of using the excuse “well, time just got away from me.” But the truth of the matter – much as we don’t want to hear it! – is that time can only get away from you if you allow it to.
When you know the things you value, those people who are most important in your life. When you take that knowledge and act on it, keeping those people and those values as central in your life, you make the time for the things that matter. You make time for the things that are most important to you.
In this season, this winter season of firelight and snuggling up with a cup of hot chocolate. In the summertime when the sun heats up our world and it’s time for ice cream on the porch while you watch the fireflies. In all the times in between, make time for stories. Make time to tell your children about when you were little.
Make time for your children to sit and listen to their grandparents as the stories are passed down from generation to generation. And as you watch and listen, smile at the privilege you have to witness the wise words from one generation being passed down yet again. Watch as a legacy is created.
- Roald Dahl: Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary
- The Magic of Baking with Your Children for the Holidays
- How to Create Heartfelt, Authentic Communication
- The Most Important Part of the Christmas Season
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.