When storytelling becomes lying, or maybe doesn’t


image Yesterday, my five year old told me about her day at preschool.

‘We found a cat,’ she said. ‘It had a name tag on its collar, which said “Please look after this cat. Its parents have died.”‘

‘That’s sad,’ I said.

‘It’s okay, Mum. We will look after it. It’s a big white fluffy cat.’

A few days before, she told me the preschool had guinea pigs.

‘How many?’ I asked.

‘One for each child,’ she said. ‘We also have horses. One for each child. And snakes. One for each child.’

‘Can I see them?’ I asked.

‘No Mum. They are around the back. Adults aren’t allowed back there.’

The previous week, she’d told me some teenagers were getting married at her school, and all the kids were invited, and they were allowed to eat fairy floss.

‘No adults are invited though,’ she said. ‘The teenagers only like kids.’ Their parents had also died.

I listen, and play along with her stories. I am never sure where the truth begins and ends. Maybe it doesn’t end, in her mind. And that’s okay, right?

I remember my own stories at that age. Clearly. Some I remember more clearly than things that actually happened. In fact my reality and my imagination are kind of confused. Some imagined things feel like were real.

Like the donkey.

When I was about 9, my mum heard me telling someone we had buried our pet donkey in the paddock.

‘We never had a pet donkey,’ she said.

But I was sure we had. For years, I’d been telling people about my pet donkey and about where it was buried.

I was caught out a few times. Although never malicious, my storytelling was construed as lying on a couple of occasions.

One day, when I was a bit older, my aunt was driving us home, and we couldn’t cross the causeway because there was water over the bridge.

My aunt went to the house on the top of the hill and asked to use their phone to call my dad.

The house had a beautiful cottage garden. When she returned to the car, I told my aunt that one day my dad had asked the owners if he could pick a bunch of flowers for my mum, and the owners said he could.

I strongly remember my family sitting around the dining room table laughing at my ‘fib’.

I can’t remember why I told it. It wasn’t to cause harm though. I’ve never really had much reason to lie. I never did anything too naughty, and if I did, Mum and Dad were generally forgiving.

I like to think my daughter’s stories are equally as harmless.

The irony is she’s ridiculously honest about things that matter.

Like that time she threw her good canvas shoes out the car window. She immediately confessed – she could have easily got away with it, as I had no idea. But she came right out with the truth.

For now, in these innocent childhood days, I am enjoying – and in fact marvelling at the stories she tells. Some are so damn imaginative and original I can’t believe they came from her young head.

I’m not sure what the psychologists say about this stage. But what do you think? Do your kids tell stories? And when do stories become something more sinister, like lying?

Storytelling: the heart of connectedness and creativity

This is my daughter Elka telling Granny Annie a tale about the Big Bad Wolf and Red Riding Hood playing hide and seek. It wasn’t a happy ending.

Last week, I wrote about storytelling, and its role in our life. Storytelling in the bath, in the car, when things get difficult, when we haven’t anything else to do. Stories get teeth brushed and pyjamas on.  Stories about Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf, the Three Little Pigs. Stories that are part this world, part books, part imagination.

Storytelling is a way of nourishing creativity, and to be creative, we must unleash our inner storyteller. As adults, when we write fiction, we need to switch off our analytic ‘adult’ brain, and retreat to our childlike stream of consciousness. We have to part ways with judgement and our inner critic, and simply let the story flow through our pen.

Reading to children, and inventing tales is a beautiful way to nourish creativity. Listen to the stories children tell while they play. If they invite you to, engage in their fantasy world, asking questions.

Connect with a child through stories

Stories are an insight into little minds. They tell us what a child has been reading or watching on television. They may also tell us what a child is thinking or feeling. Complex emotions and thoughts may present themselves in childrens’ stories. Storytelling is a way of communicating, and connecting us all.

In an article called The Secrets of Storytelling: Why we love a good yarn, Jeremy Hsu (2008) wrote:

Most scientists are starting to agree: stories have such a powerful and universal appeal that the neurological roots of both telling tales and enjoying them are probably tied to crucial parts of our social cognition.

Pam Allyn (2010) writes about the social benefits to storytelling:

Story reminds us that connectedness to the world does not always mean some have more and some have less, but that we all have stories and that is what brings us together.

Nourish storytelling. Nourish creativity.

Nourish Creativity will happen here every Monday.

Linking with Grace for FYBF at With Some Grace.

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