My summer job is to write a year-long elementary curriculum based on children’s picture books. This spring, I handpicked 28 beautiful and engaging stories from every genre. Now, I’m writing the lesson plans that will guide parents on how to use the books to teach language arts, social studies, Biblical worldview, science, and art. Because of my work, I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling and story writing and story drawing and story play acting. But, this morning when I woke up, the first thing on my mind was storykeeping.
On days when I’m writing, my children are largely free to fill their own time. Things generally run smoothly. Over the years, I’ve equipped them for such independence and responsibility. While I’m in my room working, they are industrious, imaginative, and cooperative…mostly.
Yesterday, Curly-Locks (the planner) made gift tags for Christmas and “Welcome Home” banners for Daddy Rooster, who’d just left that morning. Contemplative Twin worked on Scripture cards she’s been commissioned and paid to create for one of my friends. Little Rooster designed a Lego mine without directions. Youngest Twin flitted and floated between creative ventures. The older girls led a car-washing brigade and biked to the store for dinner ingredients. I finished the first unit of my curriculum and sent it to the editor. We were all productive.
I checked in with the kids throughout the day, gave quick hugs, issued hurried directives, and glanced at what they wanted to show me, then disappeared for several more hours of work. But I didn’t listen to their stories.
At dinner, their sharing overflowed with hilarity. At bedtime, it overflowed with tears. A day of their mother not listening to their stories was too much. Finally, I sat and listened and soothed, before singing and praying them to sleep.
But, it wasn’t until this morning that I really got it – I am my children’s storykeeper. Storytellers need a story listener. Someone who cherishes them and keeps their stories in her heart because they are gifts. My children’s stories – full of happy triumphs, exciting moments, and stinging slights – are beautiful outpourings of their hearts, minds, and spirits. If I am my children’s storykeeper, then I will cherish and honor the gift they share with me.
As I listen, I’ll celebrate each child’s uniqueness. I’ll understand them better and more wisely guide them. As I listen to my children, they will feel valued and loved. If I am a kind and loving storykeeper, they’ll look forward to sharing with me. If I’m a safe and confidential one, they’ll trust me even with the hard stuff. If I delight in their sharing, my children will be encouraged to grow and learn. They’ll be braver and wiser and so will I, which seems to be a theme of the Author who ultimately writes all our stories.