Daily my daughter asks for stories. Not books, though she will sometimes settle for those. Rather, she wants original oral tales spun ex nihilo from the contents of my brain.
It is getting challenging.
She is generally content to have them follow certain formulas:
A) Unicorn (me) + unwittingly eats something +consequences ranging from mild discomfort to abject humiliation + salvific fairy figure (her) = happy ending.
B) Unicorn tries to go to “fairy spa” for relaxing hoof treatment + unwitting visit to something other than a fairy spa (troll spa, elf spa, goblin spa) + consequences mentioned above + salvific fairy figure = happy ending
C) Unicorn tries to find fairy establishment (spa, dentist, strip mall) + inexplicable disappearance of intended destination + realization that one must unearth a flower to reveal a secret tunnel to reach the place = happy ending
D) Unicorn tries to eat unwise food source (purple sparkle flowers that causes one to fall into a deep, decades long sleep, for instance) but is stopped by fairy “giggle lumps,” (creatures who life underground and giggle when you step on them) = happy ending.
To me, my narratives are beginning to seem trite and inauthentic. I tried to bring up the point to her and her younger brother that conflict drives plot, and the absence of new conflict dries up the well of possible stories kind of fast. But they just won’t listen to reason.
I have thus taken to lying to my daughter all day, in the hopes she’ll like something and maybe I can get out of rambling unicorn spa details during teeth brushing.
“There are creatures called Ice Mcmiffins who live in the snow piles outside. They are white with terrible gnashing icicles for teeth and piercing blue stones for eyes.”
“Daddy and I decided that from now on we are going to call your brother Flimmerblimmey.”
“I can’t tell you a unicorn story because I ate canttellyou beans.”
This plan has backfired spectacularly. My daughter has started using storytelling as a defense.
“There are no such things as Ice Mcmiffins. They are all trolls in disguise! They hide in there to try to sneak up on unicorns to get their hair! Tell me about the unicorn’s hair.”
“His name is NOT Flimmerblimmey. It is Fluffy Feather. Tell me about him and the unicorns.” (Incidentally, her brother has also decided he prefers Flimmerblimmey to his actual name and has been insisting we call him that ever since.)
“I can use my magic on you so you can tell me a story. It is the most powerful magic of all. Whoosh! Now, UNICORNS!”
We carry on like this until I get out some sort of toy that will get all over the house and never be properly stored away again (I’m looking at you, Legos). This distracts her for at least twenty minutes or so until I can think up new lies for the next installment. Or at least thumb through daddy’s role playing books for ideas to steal.
Bedtime is the worst. “Reading is thinking!” I tell her, because that is the motto her school uses to convince people to do reading at home.
“Actually, mommy, your stories are even better! There aren’t even any pictures, so I have to make them up in my head. That’s even more thinking!”
Touché, little girl. You are going to kill it in law school, though presently you want to get a doctorate in fairy science.
Often when I tuck her into bed at night, I wonder how much of the stuff I say she really believes. Sometimes I think she’s in on the joke. And sometimes I think she is patiently waiting for me to catch up with the truth.
“Goodnight mommy, you will tell me another story tomorrow. And tomorrow and tomorrow! Will you always be here to tell me stories?”
So I tell her one more for the day.
“Yes, love. Always. Goodnight.”