My Kids’ Stories

Written August 8, 2009

Earlier I posted a blog entitled ‘What Makes a Story?’ It suggested that it’s really not the monumental events in one’s life that define us, but rather the seemingly insignificant happenings that end up being our true life’s story.

Being in the throes of motherhood, I find myself wondering what will define the truths of my kids’ life stories and can already see the same phenomenon playing out. As their mother, I have tried to create wonderful learning experiences in traveling and fieldtrips. I’ve deliberately celebrated milestones and birthdays with parties and gifts and special events. I’ve tucked away their favorite toys and mementos for them to look at years from now. And yet, when we’re sitting around the dinner table sharing stories of their growing up, it’s the seemingly uneventful occurrences that pop up as significant. Most of them are things I had no clue of their meaning at the time or that they ever happened at all.

Things like when we made a cross-country move from Wisconsin to Alaska in which we did everything possible to ensure a smooth transition. My then three-year-old daughter recalls how much she loved the new dress we bought before leaving. This is the one she wore 24/7 and called her ‘Cinderella’ dress as she danced with the prince at the ball and lost her glass slipper. That dress in her memory defines that monumental event as a time when she trusted her imagination as well as her love for all things pretend. A bit of knowing that she clings to now as she emerges into adulthood and works to keep that pure joy alive.

And when we moved to a new house about 8 years ago, my son was 10 years old and sad upon arriving at the new neighborhood. He couldn’t articulate why at the time since we hadn’t moved far and he was able to have the same friends and school, but we tried to ease the transition as best we could anyway. Now that he’s 18 he knows that leaving behind his glow-in-the-dark outer space wallpaper was what made that move so tough. When he arrived at the new house and was without his nighttime pretend excursion into space, he knew that it was his passion and hence, he’s headed to Purdue this fall to pursue astronautical engineering. A powerful reminder that self awareness often comes from moving through sadness and mystery.

A favorite memory of my youngest son is his parents’ amazement at dinner one evening when he suggested that grey poupon mustard would have been a nice addition to the casserole we were eating. He was six-years-old and he was right!! That’s when he knew he had a gift for creating the delicious. Amidst all of the kudos over his years, it was one split second, unplanned reaction that uncovered a burning interest.

All three of my kids have reached milestones this past spring with graduations from college, high school, and middle school, and are embarking on the resulting moves into their next phases. I wonder what will stand out for them during these months of change as nuggets of truth? I’m so curious to see how the ‘Summer of 2009’ weaves itself into the stories of their lives. No doubt I’ll get my answers during our dinner conversation in about 5-10 years.

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Regina Leffers McCaleb, Ph.D.

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