I know that the ideal, and usual practice of families is to read storybooks before bedtime or during nap times. But for us, it hasn’t been the practice. Not that I don’t want to read books to our children, but to our three-year old tot, he doesn’t have any particular favorite among our collection of children’s books, and also, because of the physical limitations brought by my illness, it hasn’t been convenient for me to grab a book and settle with my kids and read until sweet slumber takes over them.
But what I do, I believe, is more meaningful and exciting. I tell them stories from memory. Well, mostly to Tim, the three-year old. Hannah, at ten, reads by her own, and I’m glad that she loves to read.
When Tim comes to me and snuggles for a nap, he requests me, “Tell a story, Mommy. About butterflies…” He often requests the butterfly story which I have told several times.
The stories I tell him are from my childhood. I do have a trove of them! I am so blessed to have a rich, and I can say unique, childhood, far different from my children’s, and for most children today.
I grew up in a little town in the province. It’s so small a town that everybody knows everyone in the town proper. I grew up at a time when butterflies, dragonflies, fireflies, and friendly, gray beetles (salagubang in Tagalog, abal-abal in Ilocano) were the most fascinating pursuits for a child. I was great at catching dragonflies by their tails! And all these lovely insects swarmed almost everywhere. There were abundance of them then.
During summer, when the town was asleep after lunch (siesta in Spanish), my friend Elena and I would sneak out to the hills to pick blackberries (duhat in Tagalog) from the blackberry tree. Or gather carabao dung from the summer-dry fields, put them in sacks and sell them to the nursery for compost. These crusty carabao dung dotted the wide, empty ricefields like huge hotcakes. They were everywhere!
Or catch mudfish and catfish with my cousins when the fields overflowed during rainy season and grill them over burning coals. Hmmm… I could still imagine how we savored those freshly-grilled freshwater fish.
And there are so much more!
So I tell my kids these stories and I see how they marvel at each one, listening in wonderment. These endearing stories of my childhood are so much different from what they have experienced and are experiencing growing up in a suburb east of Metro Manila.
If our idea then of amusement was to play “chinese garter”, “jackstone”, “stone hunting”, and other games that required no expense in a vacant lot or in the yard, my kids’ would be to go to Fun Ranch (an amusement place for families in the heart of the city) or Worlds of Fun (an amusement place inside the mall).
So I tell them about the thousands of fireflies that lit the guava tree one summer night; or how Elena fell from a broken branch of the blackberry tree straight into a thorny, giant maguey plant, but unhurt; or how my father and my uncles went out at midnight to catch frogs in the rain-flooded fields that were teeming with these fleshy, edible amphibians, and how in the morning the whole family (except my mother!) would be enjoying a big panful of steaming frog legs cooked in rich coconut milk.
Telling my kids stories of my adventure-rich childhood not only brings them pure enjoyment, but I am also thankful that I’m able to describe to them a time, a place, and experiences they haven’t known and seen. In a way, I’m imparting to them a part of my life that would stay in their hearts and memories as they are growing up, and I hope, even to their old age.
Just as reading storybooks lull kids to sweet slumber, telling my son stories from memory with gentle caresses is just as effective.
How about you? Do you tell childhood stories to your kids? I hope you’d share them with us. We’d love to hear them!
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MOTHER’S DAY GIVEAWAYS!
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