Stories I Tell My Son

My wife and I have always shared the responsibilities of raising our three kids. We each have our strengths and weaknesses (well, I’ve got weaknesses, anyway), but I’ve been the one to put the kids to bed every night. We read together and take a few minutes to chat about our day. It’s one of my favorite roles as a dad.

My youngest son (now 9) loves those moments every evening. And lately, he’s been begging me to tell him stories from my childhood.

His interest in my history began after reading a couple of books by David Stabler — Kid Presidents: True Tales of Childhood from America’s Presidents and Kid Artists: True Tales of Childhood from Creative Legends. He was fascinated by the stories of famous people as children, like how Barack Obama worked at Baskin Robbins as a teen and now doesn’t like ice cream, or how Charles Schulz had a pet beagle that could swallow anything. It made my son’s heroes more real, more relatable, and more intriguing.

Reading those books got him thinking: What are some true tales of my dad’s childhood?

So, for months now, he asks me each night to give him a peek into my past. He loves listening to my stories, even though most of them are rather mundane. It’s his chance to time travel and discover what my life was like back then.

I told him about the time I wrote a letter to President Ford when I was seven years old … and got a letter back.

I told him about the time we found a box of kittens in our front yard … and gave them all away.

I told him about getting snow cones after my little league baseball games … even though we lost most of the time.

I told him about the time I hid my cooked carrots behind the sofa … and got away with it.

I told him what it was like not having computers or video games or mobile phones or the internet.

I told him about the time I threw a baseball through my neighbor’s window.

I told him how I stopped being a Dallas Cowboys fan after my family moved to Denver.

I told him about the cartoons I watched on Saturday mornings.

I told him about drawing pictures in church, and catching a rainbow trout in the Missouri River, and breaking my new eyeglasses the day after I got them, and getting my Star Wars action figures stolen, and selling chocolate bars with my brother in front of Albertson’s, and crashing my bike into a tree, and taking piano lessons, and having a paper route when I was 12, and decorating gingerbread houses at Christmastime, and watching the space shuttle fly by on the back of a 747, and drinking taco sauce straight out of the packet at Taco Bell, and feeding the tortoises in my grandma’s backyard, and finding cigarettes in my grandpa’s pickup, and smelling apricot blossoms in the neighbor’s yard, and winning camper of the week at summer camp, and scaring the heck out of my little brother by pretending to be a ghost in our new house.

To my surprise, there’s always one more story I can tell. After the first few days, I started to worry that I would run out of memories. I don’t spend much time thinking about my past, and I wasn’t sure how much I could remember. But here we are, several months later, and the tales keep coming back. My childhood has become vivid again.

It reminds me that I have so much to be thankful for. It reminds me that I’ve been through a lot of difficult times in my life, but not nearly so difficult as many other people. And it reminds me that my 9-year-old and I have more in common than either of us ever imagined.

I don’t know how long he’ll keep asking me for stories. So far, he seems to be enjoying them. Telling them has been cathartic for me, at the very least. But the best part is that it’s an intimate moment just between the two of us, and it brings us closer.

Everyone has a story to tell. A thousand stories. It doesn’t matter if they’re boring. All that matters is that we share them.

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