Sometimes I think the reason I continually return to the idea of Storytelling is because I am looking for ways to tie my story-compulsive brain back to my real life as the dedicated mother of three brilliant, sensitive children who need me to be connected to them.
So, with this in mind, yesterday I engaged my imagination as if my real life were a novel.
That is, I threw back to my earliest memories (sorry-in-advance to the loving adults in my world; this is not a reflection on you) and looked for concrete things that made me feel less, to feel insecure.
This was genuinely not a pity party. I was looking for specific ways I might be missing to affirm and encourage my kids. I think it could be a useful tool for any parent, I just applied it first in my writing, because that’s where it came naturally.
We had just had a tragedy that resulted in Melody *certain* she needed a band-aid, and as I did not share her certainty, I delayed my verdict to finish my task.
As I wrapped up, I had this memory of feeling completely useless. Unnecessary.
All my life– including now– I have been surrounded by amazingly competent people. And all my life– including now– I’ve had a painfully accurate awareness of how small my contribution is in ratio to the needs around me.
*Unnecessary* is a terrible thing for any child to feel.
I was on to the next project before I remembered I’d gone soft and decided to get a band-aid. So, stopping when Melody walked by (and secretly hoping she’d noticed the interruption so I’d get Attentiveness points) I invited her back to the First-Aid basket where we bandaged her wound.
Her delight was completely worth the band-aid, and I wrapped her up in a full-body nesting-hug. “I am so glad you’re my girl,” I told her. “I need you so much.”
Melody often talks so loud her voice hurts my ears, but this time, when she rolled deeper into my hug, wrapping her arms around mine, she carefully modulated her volume.
“I love you, Mama,” she said, stretching to be closer to my ear. “I love you… like meat loves salt!”
And tears sparked to my dry eyes.
We like to read a folk tale built around how perfectly deep and strong a full heart of love is expressed in those four words. And I was affected by her delight in using them.
I never felt, as a child, what I saw on my little girl’s face: the confident assurance that I had said exactly how much my mom meant to me.
I may not be my ideal of mama, (okay, I’m just plain *not* ideal), but sharing the fullness of delight at knowing exactly what to say– seeing that my 7-year-old felt her full heart completely expressed– I felt an ineffable *gratitude* that God is using these stories I’m so drawn to, *exactly* for what I want them to be.
They give my kids what they wouldn’t have any other way: a shared vocabulary. Words, images, shorthand, metaphor. My language.
Back when I used to have more opportunity to advocate for baby signing, I would often hear someone ask, “How is this useful if only the people at home understand them?”
I would counter with the question of how many outsiders understand the early language of any child, even if it were spoken.
What I didn’t latch onto then, what is so huge to me now, is Who cares about “outside”?! The child feels understood!
My absolute favorite friends (yes, I have favorites) are those who will let me tell the story that give a single line *meaning*.
What I’m finding with my kids is that we are building meaning together.
I can be sorry more people don’t share the nuance (I am) but that doesn’t mean I will stop spinning this web that connects us more and more.
It circles back to my instinctive position that stories are my mood-stabilizers, and my children’s emotional education.
And really, they’re my emotional education too, and my kids’ stabilizers.
For a long time I was embarrassed to talk about what a big deal stories are to me. After all, some very capable and healthy people seem to get by without them just fine.
Another example of unnecessary.
But they weren’t unnecessary to me. And as I watch my kids take in stories like milk, meat and ice cream, I see one more reason I’m their mom; these stories are necessary for us all.