Dear Sue Ellen,
My 4-year-old son, Timmy, tells me stories that I know aren’t true. Granted, sometimes they are funny. He told me that an eagle flew into our back yard and had an American Flag stuck in his tail feathers. Do eagles even have tail feathers? The other day he dropped his cereal on the floor; the bowl broke; milk and cereal went everywhere, of course. When I asked him about it he gave me one of his lengthy explanations. The short version is that a little boy about his age, who looked a lot like him, walked into the kitchen and was going to steal a bowl of cereal, but Timmy heard him; ran and got his Star Wars laser; and turned the boy into a skunk that knocked the cereal over and stunk up the whole kitchen. Timmy said his laser was able to get rid of the skunk and his odor, but his laser didn’t like to clean up messes on the floor. When he tells these stories he will argue they really happened. Should I be concerned about Timmy’s big imagination?
Storytelling is an old folk art. Maybe your little one is going to grow up to be the next Mark Twain of his generation. I wouldn’t worry too much about his delightful imagination, but I would suggest that you don’t let him watch too much TV. There is so much awful stuff being shown, even on kids’ channels, that a boy with an imagination like your son’s could be pure trouble for him, and everybody around. I am imagining it right now: it will start simple “I need a Spiderman Suit”, he might say. Then it will grow into “I need a scientific laboratory so I can clone the cat”, or “I need my very own Tiny House on Wheels so I can drive to the wilderness and live with Bigfoot”. (Whew! I’m ready for a nap!)
At some point in time (sooner better than later) you will have to start teaching your son the difference between telling stories and telling the truth. There is a time for both. Stories are great as long as everybody knows it as a story and not the gospel truth.
I like the way you wrote your concerns. Have you thought about keeping a journal for your little boy? You could encourage him to tell stories while you write them down. That happened to me when I was a little girl. My mother documented one of the many stories I told her. To this day, I cherish those handwritten pages. It was a tragic tale about a ballerina that had two broken arms and two broken legs. I found it years later when I was helping my parents clean out their attic. Where did a five-year-old girl, that only watched Captain Kangaroo on TV, ever come up with a story like that? Sometimes I surprise myself.
Yep…keep your son away from too much TV.
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