Path to Story, Ch. 40: “Fetch!!”

It all began from a distracted mother’s complaint. “They are too loud! I need to focus on my work!” You see, her two sons had come rolling down the wooden staircase like boulders and had begun quarreling about one’s need for sleep vs. the other’s need for help. This would’ve been fine had the stairs ended in any other room except the one containing their hard-at-work mother, but they didn’t. So again, “Change the Story”, was my mission, and I explored why my son needed help.

Fear was the problem, but I couldn’t understand why. We had moved about 6 months ago and our new house unnerved one of my kids, but even he didn’t understand why. To figure this out, we played a game we called, “Fetch!”. We ‘changed the story’ by making the different areas of the house levels by their inherent scariness. The basement, our darkest room, was Level One. The garage, home to many ‘creepy crawlies’, was Level Two. The attic, sealed off by locked doors was Level 3. We had a small stick, like the alien had in Shaun the Sheep (“The Visitor” from “One Giant Leap for Lambkind”) which he threw to distract Bitzer from barking at him. I used it to distract my son from his fear.

I had my triplets together place the stick somewhere in their respective Levels. The challenge was to go there alone and bring the stick back to me while I waited in a different room with the other two. They would then replace it for the others to take their turn. After everyone retrieved the stick, we would rank the level’s scariness from 1-10, with 10 being the scariest.

I am not a fan of collective punishment, but since this was a game everyone wanted to play, they did it together. Even though I knew the other two would be fine, I included them to help encourage their brother. Besides, they were needed for the stick’s placement.

Level One was a breeze. The highest scary score, or HSS, that was given was a two. Next up was Level Two, which again, surprisingly to me, was easy with an HSS of 3. However, things took a major turn for Level 3. I had the other two go first one-at-a-time, to lend encouragement to their brother, which they did and gave the level an HSS of 2. But when it was his turn, he froze before the attic door. The drama level went to the max as he began to berate his disobedient legs. With confused tears in his eyes, he turned to me not able to explain why he couldn’t fetch the stick. I let his siblings get a little closer, but not enough to spoil the challenge. His legs were freed and he got the stick.

Afterward, I brought them all to me and we discussed it. Fear, as we’ve discovered from “Scary Time” described in Path To Story Ch. 36, and from watching shows like Scooby-Doo, doesn’t always make sense. It can make us think silly thoughts that make things possible that aren’t. Or make us run, jump, scream, or like my son, freeze us in our tracks.

I then explained why I was proud of them: They aren’t afraid of the dark, otherwise Level One wouldn’t have been a breeze. They aren’t afraid of bugs, otherwise Level Two wouldn’t have been so easy. But why was Level 3 so difficult? It was obviously the source of my son’s fear. He told us about how the insulation hung like monster claws, along with other things. He’s right, it totally looked like monster claws. After he told us about it, he didn’t seem so afraid anymore. In fact, I recently asked him about it and he said he doesn’t even think about the attic anymore.

I’m just glad the doors are locked shut on those freaky looking monster claws…

Path 2 Story, Chapter 26: Chapters

If you’ve finally created a character that you and your kids want to keep, or if you have built a world you all want to revisit, or maybe your brain’s too tired to think up everything again, then implementing chapters can be a good and useful option.

When you think about it, chapters are everywhere: books (obviously), or this website, even the episodes of a tv show can be considered as chapters. The characters remain but the story changes. When I think of sitcoms like the Simpsons (“sitcom” itself carries the meaning of- a situation comedy) each episode brings various situations to its characters. It can get pretty funny when Homer gets in a situation that requires a bit of finesse or complicated reasoning to navigate, “D’oh”. That’s when his daughter, Lisa, steps in to save the day.

Grab a stuffed animal and think of a repetitious plotline for your situations, like fear. If your kids scare easily, make it scare even easier. Put it in various situations where it gets frightened, the more ridiculous the better. If you’re careful, you may see your kids rise up to the challenge and calm the stuffed animal down, which may be insightful when the shoe is on the other foot and you need to calm them down when they are scared.

A quick note about using fear: fear can be tricky even while being a useful plotline, you don’t want to terrify your kids and make things worse. For example, if your kids are afraid of spiders, make the stuffed animal afraid of something your kids love, like butterflies. Now two things can happen at this point, one: your kids will help the stuffed animal love butterflies like they do, or two: now your kids are afraid of butterflies. You are the parent, if you don’t know what your kids can handle, go down a step on the developmental ladder of plots as briefly described in chapter 25: baby, toddler, child, etc. If that’s not enough, go two steps down. Remember this is supposed to be fun.

A benefit of implementing chapters to your storytelling is familiarity. Your kids will know what to expect and what their roles are, whether it be to calm and overcome or figure out and solve. In that familiarity, you equip your kids with the tools they need to gain discernment, and when that happens you bring an element of sanity to your home.

You’re welcome.