We were lucky enough to have Glencora Pipkin drop in on our podcast and we enjoyed the conversation so much we wanted to continue it on the blog. You can find her book here and our podcast conversation with her here.
One question I wish we’d had time to discuss in the podcast is how you convince your kids to change up a favorite story or to accept a story through an unfamiliar medium. We just wrapped up a roadtrip which I thought might finally exhaust Jack’s tolerance of Humpty Dumpty and Yankee Doodle Dandy in terms of looped airplay.
His tolerance is limitless.
And he is utterly inflexible about what version of those songs he wants to hear. Especially in the unfamiliar territory of travel, it’s especially important for Jack to be able to replicate things exactly. Even Julie Andrew’s charmingly over-enunciated nursery rhymes weren’t acceptable. Maybe this is just a stage of life thing? Or do your kids think it’s fun to mix things up? That collection of verse curated by Julie Andrews includes “Pied Beauty.” Would the Pipkin household be on board with the way she does it?
Also, how do you incorporate bedtime story routines into travel? Do you read books from the front seat to your kids in the back? Do you just describe any pictures or pass the book around like some kind of show and tell presentation?
Ben—hope your family trip went well! I love that you’re trying out so much with Jack and Cordelia during the trip (they are so stinking cute!). I sort of feel pretty lame in comparison. Davey greedily read through 3 different collections of Calvin & Hobbes while Virginia made up songs about “being saved” (she’s into like the damsel in distress thing right now) and played with her belly button for comfort. Adriana chirped at her reflection in the window and in the mirror across from her. Not much of our car trip was enriching.
However, I can definitely speak to children’s reactions to reimagined stories. My children didn’t like it, really; especially at ages 2-5. Some of the Mo Willems books that I think are hilarious (ones in which Willems does a riff on a fairy tale) are ones that just fly by my children’s heads. It was essentially a completely new story for Davey when we would try to read it to him. Even though Willems had cleverly reimagined a fairy tale, to Davey, the story was merely tangential. Davey really enjoyed the repetition and (for lack of a better term) stability and constancy of the same story, with the same words, in the same way. So boring, these kids 😉
Chris and I did love to transcribe Davey’s stories when he was about 3. When I was all out of ideas of things to do, I would sit with Davey at the table and ask him to make up a story, and I’d write it down for him (and maybe draw something if promised to continue telling me the story). The story always came out a bit like Gertrude Stein’s prose; they never really came up with a real, clear sense of conflict or a story arc, but they always approached it. AND! Davey’s stories always blended the different stories he had been telling him, but of course, in a clunky, 3 yr. old way. Davey was almost always willing to play this game with me because it wasn’t about listening to his favorite and well-known stories reimagined, but it was about giving him the power to create a story himself (in all its experimental glory).
I think by now, Davey likes to hear things or read things that are similar to the original. He gets pretty excited when he recognizes a piece of art about a story, and he sort of mentally high-fives himself by noticing the similarity. Except the other day when I tried to make up a bedtime story about a dog with 12 brothers and a multi-colored collar. I got pretty far into the story; I had to improvise a name for Potiphar, so I went with “Lady Dog.” Davey was like, “Mommmmmmm. You tricked me. That was a Bible story!”
Um, we would totally be open to listening to Julie Andrew’s “Pied Beauty.” That is amazing! I had no idea such a thing existed. I’ll try it out with my kiddos this week.
OK! To answer your bonus question!
For sanity’s sake, we let our kiddos watch some of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller in the car during our trip around bedtime. When it was time for bed, we turned it off, and were silent. LOL! So draconian. We mostly do not read to the kids during car trips because we selfishly want to talk to each other. It’s like a pretend date. Also, the logistics of reading and showing the pictures are tricky. So we bail on story time during trips. But our kids can look through (or drool on) as many of the books in the car as they want.
Because Davey is 6, we were able to play some fun games during the trip, though. We had a Mother Hubbard rhyme game that we played with him (he’d have to fill in “She went to the y to get him a x and when she came back, the dog was x ). Virginia really wants to play the game, too, but her understanding of rhyme is lacking but seriously cute.
I’ve mostly given up on trying to enforce flexibility with stories. Takes too much effort, never seems to work, and honestly, I’m not really sure what the point is. Is it a bad thing if my daughter only wants to hear the wheels on the bus verses in a certain order…? meh. But maybe that’s because my kids don’t seem to ever get stuck on one thing for too long (couple months at the most, maybe); they often hit a boredom point pretty quickly.
The other part of all this is that I’m less and less confident that I have any idea what’s going on inside my kids’ heads when we’re reading/signing/chanting stories. It seems like pointless repetition to me, but obviously they’re getting something out of it, so…
Our kids are on their own for reading stories/looking at books on road trips. We set the precedent early that we’re not going to try and read aloud in the car, so they’re mostly used to just flipping through books on their own. We do sing though. A lot. Wheels on the Bus and ABCs mostly.
And usually, when we’re traveling or visiting friends/family the bedtime story routine goes out the window because we end up staying up later than normal. The girls don’t seem to mind much, and I think we’re usually so exhausted that not having to read The Little Engine That Could for a weekend is just fine by us.