Stories have long been one of my secret weapons. It is often easier to make up a story than find an expert to communicate a particular message with my son. In particular I used them for preparing Cai for arduous adventures, ones where he needed to be braced and ready to reach deep within himself. A typical occasion was when we first climbed Flattop. While it is the most frequently summited peak in Alaska, that does not make it a walk in the park. The trail is approximately 1.7 miles each way and ascends 1300ft with some rock scrambling at the top. Cai was four years old.
Iac was a little mouse who frequently featured in our stories; it took Cai years to realize Iac was his name spelled backwards. Like all heros, Iac was a role model who displayed exceptional character strengths. It was these strengths that made him successful when possibly a person of such small stature should not have been. While I do not remember much about Iac’s ascent of Flattop, I do recall it took him three days to achieve the feat. I recall him getting up really early and walking into the evening to make up for his little legs. I suspect I described the clothes, food and equipment he carried and included him using them. I definitely would have gone into great detail about how he rose to each and every occasion. I would have told Cai how he was worn out and yet he kept on going. I would have explained that when he was frightened climbing the rocks at the top, that instead of looking down he looked at where he was going. I would have described how he paced himself, how he looked after himself by regulating his temperature through wearing an appropriate amount of clothing. How when he started to feel tired he would have eaten. And, he certainly hydrated well. Iac would have helped others as he ascended. He would have smiled at everyone and wished them a good time. We have always used stories and letters from fairies to tell him how to behave and how to be, rather than catching him doing something inappropriate and telling him he is doing it wrong.
I do remember our first day on Flattop. Dressed in a pair of Norwegian woolen boots from the thrift store, a pair of powder blue fleece pants, with grey long sleeve, navy tee and grey fleece vest, all topped off by a multi colored stripped headband. He was a picture of cuteness. Determined from the very first step and smiling the whole way, he soldiered on even during the brief showers. Roped up at the top and taking a variant route so that we did not have people knocking rocks onto us he looked as if he was having an epic adventure. Resting on a bench on the way down I have never seen him look so tired while still awake. This is the stuff of memories and stories helped to make it successful.
How are you using stories?
An article about Flattop from the Anchorage Daily News.