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June 11, 2012
We the Parents
Tell Me the Stories
by Melissa Howell

Perhaps you're familiar with the Primary song "Tell Me the Stories of Jesus:"

"Tell me the stories of Jesus I love to hear.
Things I would ask him to tell me if he were here."

Stories are a fabulous way for children - anyone, really, but especially children - to learn and relate to a person, event, time period and the like. We learn and tell stories about our Savior; the prophets; scriptural heroes and villains; historical figures; and our ancestors. But have you thought about telling your children your stories?

My kiddos love hearing me tell about the time my sister and I shared one pair of ice skates. It was her turn to wear the skates, and thus I was relegated to walking around the ice in my moon boots - which were stylin', I might add - and slipped on the ice and broke my collar bone. And because I had a very slight tendency toward hypochondria, my parents didn't believe that something serious was wrong for a couple of days. I was the original girl who cried wolf, and I paid for it on that occasion.

They love hearing about the time I slammed my thumb in the door of my grandmother's Cadillac when I was four years old, and had to have the end of it sewn back on. And then there's the time I grew tired of playing pretend beautician with my sister and, against her sweet warnings, grabbed a pair of real scissors and hacked off her bangs to about half an inch long, one week before our dance recital, no less. My kids really love hearing that one, about how loudly their grandmother yelled my name upon discovering my new "talent" when my sister let the cat out of the bag (or in other words, walked upstairs and was seen).

But the stories can do more than entertain and teach our children about who we were before they stormed into our lives. They can make us more real, and relatable.

I have a child who likes to self punish, to give himself consequences that hurt only himself. For example, he might refuse to play with a new toy out of anger for getting in trouble over something, even if his punishment had nothing to do with the new toy.

So to him, I tell the story of the gumball - of the time I had gotten in trouble for something that was so minor I can't remotely recall the incident. But I do remember that once it was said and done, my dad took me with him to a friend's house.

Although the issue was settled as far as my dad was concerned, it was far from settled in my mind. Upon arriving at his friend's house, I was greeted in the entryway by a large gumball machine, full of large, colorful, assuredly tasty gumballs. I was offered the chance to enjoy one, but flatly refused - out of anger from my earlier punishment. I often remind my son of the story of the gumball, and how for a long time after that I would think of it, and how I surely wished I had acquiesced and partaken of the sweet offering. In subsequent contrast, regret was a rather sour pill to swallow. The story of the gumball has helped my son and me through some angry times.

"But I don't have any interesting stories to tell," a friend said to me. To her, and anyone else of similar thought, I respond with these two words: Steve Hartman.

Hartman, an Emmy Award-winning CBS News correspondent, co-hosted a prime time talk show, "Public Eye," with Bryant Gumbel. As part of the show, Hartman hosted a series titled "Everybody Has a Story." At the end of the each show, they'd throw a dart at a map of the United States, pick someone out of the local phone book, and do a story on someone at that house. Turns out, they were right: everybody does have a story. And you don't need a professional storyteller to tell it.

A delightful young man spoke in my ward's sacrament meeting on Mother's Day, and I was impressed - and touched - by the stories and details he shared about his wonderful mother. It was clear that he really knows her, not just as someone who feeds and cares for him, but as someone who has interests, feelings and quirks. I later mentioned this to the mother, and she responded with, "Well, we spend a lot of time together!"

When we spend time with our children, they receive a precious opportunity to know us and learn about us. Tell them your stories at bedtime from time to time, share them once in a while on a family walk, or turn off the music during drive time and fill the space with stories from your life. Tell them during family home evening, or simply whenever the mood or opportunity strikes.

Consider recording your stories now for your children and future posterity. Before my grandfather passed away a couple of years ago, my mother had taken him back to the Wisconsin farm where he had been raised, and videotaped my grandfather telling stories from his life. When we gathered at the luncheon following his funeral, how powerful it was to watch that video as it played! There we were, sharing sorrows and memories of my grandfather, while hearing about his life in his own words. It was a beautiful and memorable experience.

You can record your stories through video, audio, journals, or blogs; create a private blog if you don't want anyone else reading it. Consider printing your stories and compiling them into a binder or scrapbook.

When thinking of stories/memories to share, consider starting with such things as:

Of course, parents need to be wise - and perhaps prayerful - in what they share with their children. Our children need to know that we are imperfect and need the Savior's atoning sacrifice just as they do. They need to know that we have interests, likes and experiences. They need to know who we are, and what made us as such.

Even if they know some of my stories verbatim, my children still ask me to tell them the stories from my life. If you haven't already, consider telling yours to your children. They are most surely guaranteed to become classics.

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