Parenthood is filled with moments when you think, "Has it really come to this?" More often than not, these moments are filled with the excretions of a tiny body—excretions of all kinds. After a while, you just become immune to it. Spit-up stains on the shoulder? Whatever. At least it's only spit-up.
Anyway, we have a four-year-old who completed his potty training relatively recently. I mean completed in the sense that he's on his own now. He has his degree. Closed bathroom door. No checking up on his thoroughness afterward. Our job as parents has basically been reduced to asking, "Did you wash your hands?" after he's done. From what I can tell, this stage will probably last well into teenage-hood.
Except for one thing ... Every night before bed, he poops. And every night, he asks me to tell him a "poopin' story." This started a long time ago, when I was looking for a way to keep him occupied while he waited for the magic to happen. But by the time he no longer needed my help, it had become a ritual: me, perched on the edge of the tub, him on his throne, and a little story.
The funny thing is, I think I've gotten more out of poopin' stories than he has. Try this: four to six nights a week, come up with a funny, 5-minute story that has identifiable characters, action, and most importantly, a Major Theme. We tell stories about slugs who learn that even they have special skills, sunflowers who hoard their seeds because they're jealous of their own beauty, wasps who protect children from tarantulas, little boys who wish away night so they can play all the time and never sleep, and on and on and on. I get instant feedback on these stories—I can tell when he's engaged and paying attention. I can tell when a message hits home because his little face lights up. And I can tell when he's bored or otherwise distracted.
Lately, as I'm plotting another book (another book? Indeed), I realized how much I've come to rely on these simple little stories and how much I've learned about basic storytelling by having to come up with a new one every night and, probably more importantly, edit on the fly when I can tell I'm losing the little monkey.
So you tell me ... what surprising lessons has normal life taught you about storytelling?