We had my parents over for lunch a few weeks ago. My dad was telling jokes, the kind of “Dad” jokes that made me laugh as a kid. My six-year-old son was doing these beautiful big belly laughs that remind me of me when I was his age. My heart melts a little each time he does them because it means he’s totally relaxed and light-hearted. And for my father to be the reason for them melts my heart a little more.
We somehow got onto the topic of books (a foregone conclusion in my house). It all started with Mr Men books. Mr 4-year-old loves Mr Men and Little Miss books (no gender discrimination here!), he’s got quite the collection, and he was giving the members of his family their very own Mr Men or Little Miss names. He named his dad Mr. Mean. Ouch! I, apparently, am Little Miss Fussy. Not completely unwarranted, I suppose. Then my dad announced when I was a kid, I named him Mr. Grumpy. Ouch again. Poor dads copping it from their kids! He then said that he thought he was really Mr. Silly, which is actually pretty fitting (see above regarding “Dad jokes”).
Then we got on to Dr. Seuss, whose books have been a staple in our house for the past 5 years. I told my dad I remember reading Mr. Men books, Spot books, and Dick and Jane books when I was young but I felt like I only discovered Dr. Seuss when my sister handed down a collection of her kids’ old books to us. And that was kind of how it felt, but also not, because, while Thing One and Thing Two were unfamiliar to me, there is something about Dr. Seuss’ books that felt so right , so comfortable.
Then, my dad told me that when I was a girl, he used to go the library and borrow Dr. Seuss books and read them to me. This was a total revelation! I knew that he read to me – apparently, I would read the fishing report to my grandfather before I started school, so it’s obvious I was read to. But I had no idea that he went to the library for me, nor that he read me anything by Dr. Seuss.
And just like that, a window to my childhood had opened up. A peek into something about me that is not a part of my memories. One that, surprisingly (for such a small piece of information), makes me feel closer to my father. And grateful. And nostalgic.
This led to me thinking about how much my kids love to hear stories about when they were younger and before they were born. How Mr Six tumbled down some stairs in our Amsterdam apartment when he was one; how he dropped a laptop on his toe and broke it when he was two; how Mr Four went to New York and Paris in utero; how we couldn’t walk down the street without someone stopping us to comment on how happy he was; stories about us, their grandparents, great-grandparents – our weddings, our jobs, places we’ve been, and so on. Whenever I tell one of these stories, my boys keep asking for more. More, just one more!
And this is the thing: stories are about connection. Tell your children stories. Tell them about when they were younger. Tell them about when you were younger. Tell them about moments shared. Tell them about things that happened to them.
Beautiful, meaningful, life-changing memories can be lost in the repetition of everyday life, school, responsibilities, growing up.
Those moments mattered. Stories matter. Connection matters.