Some weeks, I think that any moment, the Pedagogical Section of the Anthroposophical Society is going to show up at my door and demand my degree in Waldorf Education, my Purple Book, and my copy of The Foundations of Human Experience be immediately returned. In other words, I continue to be the antithesis of exemplary. I don't measure up.
Some recent failures:
And honestly, when I look at these, they don't scream bad parenting to me. They scream, "Awesome, caring mom!" Those tv shows and games are a far better choice than the ninjas and fighting and toy-company-commercial ones he was clamoring to watch a few months ago. The cold medicine is helping to quiet his cough so he can sleep. I apologized for losing my temper, or diffused the situation with humor and hugs.
In each of those so-called failures is a blessing. My son has beautiful relationships with his Grandpa and Pépé (my stepdad and dad). He has delicious, healthful food to eat. He is parented by people who love him wildly and who want to share our excitement and interest in the world around us.
So let's look at another list. Some recent triumphs:
Maybe you need to let yourself off the hook, too. Maybe there are places where you want to improve. Good! It means you are open to new ideas, that you are always learning. It means your awareness and presence are expanding. Good! Mine are, too. Let's rejoice in that, and in our beautiful families, with all their messiness and crazy-making tendencies, and stop beating ourselves up over whatever failure we think is there.
Learning to tell stories can be daunting. I get that. Even seasoned Waldorf teachers or homeschooling parents can feel that fear, and the Waldorf grades curriculum is built on storytelling. Letting go of always reading to your child, or turning on an audio book or Sparkle Stories story, or a movie, can be really, really scary.
So start small. Here are three easy ways to start telling stories to your children.
1. Puppets. Don't panic. Puppets can be really easy; everyday objects can be magical. Ask Dan Hurlin, whose puppet theater full of forks and spoons enchanted my college classmates. Pick something up -- a toy, a cup, a mitten -- and let it speak and move. This type of story can charm three and four year olds to stillness. Puppet wakes up, has a tiny adventure, and goes to sleep. Fin. Your lap, maybe draped with a playsilk or scarf, makes a perfect stage; so does the kitchen table, or the dashboard on the freeway-turned-parking lot. There can be an epic adventure, or there can be next to nothing. Just try.
2. When I was a kid. Can you remember anything from your childhood? Stories from your family or longtime friends? Children love real, true stories of your own experiences, especially when the story opens up a new perspective on you. Stories where you got into trouble, where you made a bad decision, where things didn't work out so great, these are a real gift to your child, who will find in them permission to fail, to learn, to try again. You become human and whole through these stories. Tell stories of your triumphs, too -- spelling bee victories, hard-won first fruits of your own garden, the Big Game. Humor and compassion for your young self and for the other characters in your story will feed their need for goodness. Tell these stories. They become part of your legacy.
3. Movies, Books, TV shows. My mother told me the entire plot of Anne McCaffrey's The White Dragon on a road trip to Nebraska to visit my grandparents. She later told me she'd done this to keep herself awake on the long, straight highway through the cornfields, but at the time, I only knew that here was a fantastic, beautiful story. So tell your favorite plots; re-enact favorite scenes with voices and gesture. Of course, there are limits, and you know what your child will enjoy and what will be unpleasant or scary for them. The best part is this: if you forget, make it up. This is your chance to fix the ending you hated, to fill in the details your mind has let go. Your imagination and intuition may create just the pieces your child needs most.
I believe deeply in the power of stories to heal, help, and guide. Pick any one of these, put down the book, turn off the radio, and let your own voice and the magic of the story sweeten your time with your child.
Bedtime comes up in a ridiculous percentage of my blog posts, Facebook status posts, and web searches from a couple of years ago. Sleep is such a big issue with little ones, and there are so many opinions and theories and so much advice. I am not going to get into that part of it. I'm thinking about the stretch of time between dinner and sleep, however and wherever it happens. I had planned a while back to make an ebook out of all this advice, and sell it to you. That's more work than I have time for, and frankly, I'd rather share this with you here and now. So, imagine we are having a cup of tea or coffee or hot buttered rum, and I'm telling you what is working, and has worked for us.
Your milage, as they say, may vary.
So, there you go. Five things to try, to make bedtime smoother. "What about bedtime stories?!" you cry. "What can I read to little Cerulean? What story should I tell little Candelabra?" That's coming soon, folks...
I am still I. Yup. Same Sara. The one who wrote those blog posts last year. Same one. Same themes, same thoughts, same self-same comments about my life.
No matter how much the outer circumstances change, I am unsure about how much change is really possible, when I keep talking about the SAME. THINGS. all the time.
My guess is, that if you went back and read my livejournal and my paper journals, dating back for the last 25 years, there would be some definite patterns.
How much can we really change who we are? Is there a moment things become set?
after this week, with a sick kiddo (now recovered), a missed lantern walk, last-minute work changes, newly scheduled gigs, and the work of simply being human, I need a moment to breathe.
Here's a huge summer sky over the Green Mountains.
breathe in the warmth, the space.
Tonight, we walked in the cold, just the boy and I, and sang our songs as we circled the neighborhood with our lanterns. so far away from the scene above, and yet, there is something the same in both.
See those gorgeous cards? The ones with the luminous watercolor artwork? On the back of each one are four words or phrases. They come from Waldorfish, and you can have some for your very own.
This week, I told stories at the Linden Hills Farmers Market. I was in a very small space, which was not totally ideal, but I was right next to Heartfelt's crafting area, so that was cozy and sweet (Heartfelt is one of my awesome day jobs, and I get to tell stories there next week!). I had my secret weapon, the above-pictured cards, tucked in my purple purse, and my fat, water-stained Grimms' tales to lend me ballast. At 5 minutes to show time, I stood in each bay of the greenhouse where our market is happening, and bellowed "STORYYYYYYTIIIIIIIMME!!!"
I opened with Mother Holle.
Mother Holle is a story related to many other tales -- Diamonds and Toads is one that comes to mind -- in which a good child is rewarded and a bad child punished. I had eight or so listeners, and they were all deeply engaged with the story. That is the power of fairy tales: in the midst of a busy, noisy marketplace, people gathered to hear a story, and were instantly transported to another world. I stood as the medium of the story, and tried to help it into the world.
When Mother Holle was finished, and the bad child who hadn't shaken the featherbeds well enough to bring snow to the earth had been doused in pine pitch, many of the listeners stood and smiled and disappeared into the crowd. Those who stayed saw me bring out the Storystarter cards, shuffle them, and fan them in my hands. "Choose one!" I urged them. They did, and I held the chosen cards in my hands for a moment before the story began to spin itself into being. First one element, than another, sent out its bright thread, and I caught them and twisted them into my words. The story was fairly simple, with a journey and a fairy ball and a mask, a letter and a market, a return to the everyday world, with a memento of the revels. When it was done, we all sighed contentedly. There. The shining plaited threads of story dispersed like smoke when a candle is put out.
I've used these cards to tell stories to my son, and that was lovely, but there was a magic in bringing something from each of the listeners -- their own contributions to the tale -- into a woven whole.
Want to try it? Join me Sunday, or get your own cards and let others draw the stories out. I'll be telling every Sunday at noon throughout November, and at 1 o'clock in December.
Instead of anything profound, today, I will tell you this:
Today, I fixed a vacuum cleaner. It had slipped a belt on the beater brush. I fixed it, and as I turned the vacuum back on and began to actually clean the floor, instead of just pushing the vacuum back and forth, wondering why nothing was happening, I thought, "Well, at least I have something to blog about today!" And then I considered starting a list of things to blog about.
Want a better story? In Minnesota? Come to the Sunnyside Gardens greenhouse this Sunday. The Linden Hills Farmers Market is carrying on with delicious smells and tastes, and I'll be spinning yarns at noon. I may actually spin something, because there is a knitting theme this week. Tomorrow, I'll tell you about a new and fantastic storytelling tool I'm carrying around in my purse these days.
But for today, I leave you with this nice image of a vacuum.
So, the big snow passed us by. We had a lot of slush. The morning commute was awful, and we picked kiddo up at school early to avoid the evening commute. Then, I made brownies.
I've been thinking about how I got connected with people online, aside from the awesomeness that was LiveJournal, ca. 2005.
See, my last year of working at Spring Hill School, I got a book by Amanda Soule for Christmas, because Dooce had recommended it. I read dooce, because Alice of Finslippy mentioned her. Can't remember how I got to Alice's blog.
So, among the ads on Amanda's page was one for Kathy's site. And Kathy had an ad for Leonie's Goddess Guidebook page... and someone had an ad for Kind Over Matter, and they had a link one day to one of Hannah Marcotti's free ebooks. Through one of Hannah's courses, I met Angela.
So, that's how I "met" some of my people. Others, I've known since the days of dial-up, when that was how I could get internet access in my college dorm. There is the mailing list group of folks who have heard all my worst and best moments for the last 20 years. There are the high school and college friends I only see on facebook.
The truth is, I kind of suck at connecting with people. I forget to answer texts and emails. It's not that I don't want to talk to people, it's just... I end up waiting until the perfect time.
There is no perfect time. This is the only time there is.
Follow some of those links. Head down the rabbit holes of my past. You may meet some of your people, and you may not. Or you could go send an email or a text, or pick up the phone, or walk out your door, or look across the room.
Hello. This has been my journey to this place. Glad to meet you here.
Sara is a storyteller, writer, artist, teacher, wife, mother, and singer living in Minnesota. I write about storytelling, and about living a life with stories.