Recently, my wife was away and I decided to spend that week at my dad’s house with my two sons. I got to discover that they have developed the habit of asking for bedtime stories. Probably after being indulged a couple of times by their mum. The first time, I got away with telling a story about a boy who succeeded in life and was able to make his mum and dad proud because he studied hard. Apparently, I was trying to focus on the need for my children to study more since the five-year-old was learning to read at this time.
Another night, they came up to me and asked that I tell them a story. After much persuasion, I reluctantly decided to tell them a story thinking that I could tell it to them as I thought it up. I told them the story of a boy who couldn’t wake up from sleep early enough to see his dad leave for the office. The story was dry indeed and after my first statement about the boy who wouldn’t go to bed, my three-year-old said “it’s me.” It was an effort not to laugh out loud because he got me right there.
Meanwhile, the five-year-old was silent most of the time. Thinking about it now, I realized that this kid was quiet, hoping to enjoy a well-thought-out story which was not the case. There I was, telling the story untill it got to the end where I declared the moral of the story, which was “kids should retire early so they can wake up early and be able to see their dad leave for the office.” Right after that they both demanded another story and of course, I wouldn’t oblige them since I didn’t know what else to say, I was tired and besides, I had told them one already.
With that my five-year-old started crying and he told me that the story was not interesting and he didn’t like it. Really, I don’t know why, but two things struck me to consciousness.
1. This boy was attentive all along and I thought he enjoyed it.
2. He started crying at the end and said he did not like the story.
I felt guilty for taking these kids for granted, thinking it did not matter what I told them just to get them to sleep. Eventually, I calmed my boys and they fell asleep, but resolved to be prepared for this task the next time. In fact, I searched the internet soon after for ‘African bedtime stories” and surprisingly I came across stories I used to know in my childhood. I bookmarked the pages and chose some titles which I knew they would love.
As expected, the following night they asked for bedtime stories, but I was prepared. My five-year-old son was thrilled by the story of “Oluronbi” who foolishly promised to give her beautiful child to the spirit of the Iroko tree while all the other barren women promised little items that can be redeemed easily.
Soon after this story, he left the bedroom to re-tell it to his cousins, then came back to ask for another one. I obliged him because I was ready. This time I told him about the story of ‘Ananse the spider’ and how he developed eight thin legs.
Before the end of the second story, my three-year-old had fallen asleep followed by the five-year-old soon after. The next morning while I preparing to leave for the office, my five-year-old, came up to me and said “Daddy you told us two stories last night. I like it”.
After hearing him say this, I realized it was a feedback from my audience, a feedback for a job well done, the type of feedback you get when you deliver with adequate preparation. And I got this positive feedback from the same audience that reprimanded me for the first job that wasn’t done well.
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