By Lisa Sugarman
I’m a talker. Always have been. And a big-time storyteller. Not that anyone around my house is ever clamoring to hear any. But I do love telling them. Especially stories of things I did when I was a kid.
The truth is, I think it’s because I see things so vividly in my own mind that I have such a compulsion to share every detail.
Thankfully for me, my friends accept me for the detail-oriented pain that I am. Thankfully. Dave and my relatives, on the other hand, don’t have much choice. They have to love me by default no matter what. My kids, though, well, they’re a different story altogether. Whenever I make the mistake of retelling a story they’ve heard before I might as well be talking to an empty room because they shut down almost immediately. Eyes start rolling; yawns start escaping.
Now it’s because I have so many happy memories of being a kid that I love to relive the moments. And who better to retell them to than my own kids? Problem is, my kids would rather scoop out their eyeballs with a grapefruit spoon than listen to me tell them about all the stuff I did when I was their age. And frankly, I’d love to know why that is.
Ok, so I wasn’t Miss America and don’t have extravagant pageant stories. And I wasn’t a coke dealer in Miami, so I don’t have any Medellin Cartel stories to make me look like a badass. Although my friends and I once brought home a “perfect stranger” as part of a scavenger hunt back in high school. But that was a one-off. And I think the guy was actually my friend’s third cousin.
I mean, it’s not like I’ve lived my life as a recluse, in a cave, in the Himalayas, with no human contact. Ever. I’ve done stuff. Plenty of stuff. Stuff that would curl their little toes if they ever knew. (Actually, I only said that for dramatic effect. I’ve really got nothing.)
My stories are about Powderpuff games and being one of only two girls to play Little League in my town in the mid-80s. They’re pretty cookie cutter as far as stories go. But I always thought they’d be enough to keep my kids at least mildly entertained and wanting more. Let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t bet real money on it.
I think, ultimately, my mistake was that I didn’t make stuff up. That would’ve made the difference. That would’ve left them drooling. But these are things that a parent can only see in hindsight.
I’ve tried to convince myself that all kids feel this way about their parents’ stories. But I wasn’t like that as a kid. On the complete contrary. I remember actually asking my mom to tell me stories. Even the ones I’d heard twenty-seven times before. I wanted to get to know who she was before she was my mom. And when I really think about it, I think I did it because I always wished that I’d had the chance to know her the same way her friends knew her—a way no kid can ever know their parents. I also think I had way too much time on my hands because I was an only child. Either way, I hung on every word.
That’s the thing about being a parent; we all have this whole other side to us that our kids will never know. Sure, they’ll see pictures and leaf through yearbooks and maybe watch some old videos, but they’ll never really know the people we were when we were their age. That’s why our stories are so valuable.
Like, my daughters will never get to experience the boy-crazy me or the prom-dress-shopping me or the student-driver me or the camp-counselor me. And I wish they could. Not because I was this amazing rock-star-type kid, but because I think they’d have a different appreciation for me and for the stories I love to tell.
I’m sorry, but you can’t tell me that when my girls are pushing 50 someday they’re not going to want to share their memories with their kids. Because they absolutely most definitely will. Even though, at the seasoned ages of fourteen and seventeen they swear they won’t. What the hell do they know?
So to all you new parents out there, take my advice now while you still have time. Make some stuff up to keep your kids on the edge of their seats. Mix a little fantasy with reality to keep them coming back for more. Consider it historical fiction. You can tell them the truth when they’re grown up. No harm, no foul, right?