Since she was able to have a conversation, my oldest daughter has been a very creative story teller. When she was 2 1/2 we were introduced to Peter, her pet cat. He later transformed into her little brother Peter. She’d go to the park or the pool; 30 children around her age, but she didn’t want to interact with them. She wanted to play with Peter. We often struggled to get out of the house because she wanted Peter to come with her, but he caused more trouble than good. Overall, he sounded like a wonderful younger brother. Then one day, he was hit by a car and died. It occurred right around the time her sister was born.
In preschool her teacher had to talk to her daily about real stories and “once upon a time stories.” She go to school and tell the other children all about her brothers and sisters. She told children her family was from places we’ve never visited, and we had lots of pets. None of this was true. Her teacher would ask her, “Is that a real story or a once upon a time?”
At home we’d hear about other children in her class, their families, and the teachers. To the best of our knowledge, very little of it was true. She’d tell stories about events at home which were easily interpreted as lies. “Fred the Ghost did it.” In addition, she would lie. And she was very convincing…sometimes. If we told her that we didn’t believe her she would throw a massive tantrum. This still occurs to this day, but the tantrums are much mellower.
When she was six we were so concerned about her lying and tantrums that we went to a child psychologist. After a couple sessions the child psychologist concluded that the lies were partial reality to her and our lack of trust in the world she lived in was creating an extreme stress response when confronted.
Needless to say, she has a knack for storytelling.
She is now 8 and the stories are going down on paper. The line between real story, once upon a time, and a flat out line is much clearer.
The last week of school this year she came home with the annual school publication for Writers Workshop. It was a collection of 18 short stories written by children first through sixth grade. She was thrilled when she handed it to me.
“Dad! Look one of my stories is in the book!”
The first story in the book was “The Dress,” written by my daughter. Below is the story:
Once there were three families. Two of the families were kind but the third was very cruel. The first family was leopards, the family was tigers, and the third family was foxes.
“Mama,” said Mrs. Tiger’s son. “I want a dress.”
“Why Ckarny,” she said.
“Well, I think they look beautiful,” he said.
“Hey!” yelled Bess, his sister. “Did I hear my brother wants to get a dress? Ha ha!”
“Now don’t make fun of your brother, Bess.”
“So can we go to the store to get my dress?”
“Of course, honey.”
So they went to the store. When they came back they had bought a dress that was very beautiful.
“I love it,” Ckarny said.
“I want that dress!” said Bess.
The next day, Ckarny and his friend Litt were walking and Keke the fox came up to them and said, “You’re a boy, why would you wear a dress? You Weirdo! Ha ha!”
Just then Bess and Zahara saw Keke laughing. They ran up to them.
“Hey, stop!” said Zahara.
“Ha ha! What are you doing Leopard girl?” said Keke.
“That’s not very kind,” said Bess.
“Ha ha! Who asked for you opinion, little tiger?”
“That wasn’t very nice,” Ckarny said, while crying.
That night Ckarny talked to his mom and dad about what happened.
“It’s okay,” his mom said. “As long as you like the dress, it’s fine. You should ignore them.”
Ckarny and his friend were happy again. They ignored Keke and her friends most of the time. From that day on Ckarny always wore his dress to school.
I gave her a hug. “I love your story! It’s so creative. You’re a talented writer.”
“You very good at it and you should keep doing it because it is a skill that is easier for you than many other people.”
“Okay” she replied.
“I look forward to seeing more stories in books from you as you get older.”
Am I ready to hang my hat up and say that the story telling has now panned out to be a good thing? Yes, and I will continue to foster her talents and encourage her to do what makes her happy. At the same time, we are still dealing with lying. And she continues to have a very difficult time recognizing that lying can be dangerous and hurtful. But I hear that can be a lifelong challenge…that many people can come to recognize as ok.