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 to Story, Chapter 30: Make the Mundane Adventurous

Homework can be tiresome, and Mathematics can be at the top of the charts of being tasteless and boring. In Chapter 14, I tried to describe how ‘changing the story’ can change a simple assignment of drawing rectangles into a desperate attempt to save kittens. This time however it was no easy assignment. I’ve tried to explain to my kids that every video game is based on math: A bad guy has 50 points and you have a gun that shoots 10, how many shots does it take to beat him? They understood, but staring at a sheet of equations seems far removed from a screenshot of their favorite game.

Fractions were the subject of the day, and learning how to add them was the assignment. I tried teaching them the concepts, but I only got blank stares, and blank stares have again become a sign to me to ‘change the story’.

My daughter occasionally talks about wanting to become a detective so I used that as the backdrop. My kids became the agents of the Triplet Detective Agency! The first job was to find the lowest common denominator or LCD. Determining it was the clue that busted the case wide open. They have already learned their multiples, so locating the lowest one shared by the denominators was usually pretty quick. It was like finding the culprits’ fingerprints and tracking them down to their home/hideout.

Converting the first fraction to the LCD was like entering the front door, but the perp was running out the back! Quickly converting the other/remaining fraction/s captured him. However, if you’ve ever seen Scooby-Doo you know that a case was never solved unless they checked to see if the villain was wearing a mask. After adding the fractions, the question of, “Can you reduce it?” gave a good tug to make sure. And after everything was verified it was time for the catch-phrase, “Take ‘em away boys!” My kids would then make the siren sound and move on to the next case.

Long division was another one I employed story to explain. It was military combat based with a headquarters (quotient) that gave orders to the troops (divisor) who moved out to defeat the enemy (dividend). Yes, I probably taught it incorrectly, but my kids got the right answers! And when it came time to work on fractions, they’d cheer and get right to it.

I know I’m just beginning to explore what can be accomplished through story. Its use isn’t limited to authors, teachers, or preachers; parents also have this tool and can utilize it to create almost whatever they want for their families. It can make even the mundane adventurous.