My dad is an amazing story teller. As a child I was entertained endlessly by the stories he told about growing up as one of seven children. There are some stories he’s told me so many times that I actually picture myself there with him.
They range from amusing (like when all seven of them chained their bikes together to go for a ride, or when my grandma left him at the food store because, really, who can keep track of seven kids!) to serious (how hard it was to make ends meet and how much Spam he consumed as a result).
I cherish these stories and was recently struck by The Stories That Bind Us.
The article highlights a fascinating study by a psychologist named Dr. Marshall Duke from Emory University around family tradition and narrative:
“The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.”
I’ve often thought my father’s tales were primarily about entertainment, but have come to realize they are so much more. They have shaped who I am and what I am a part of. They are why I have such a great respect for my parents’ work ethic and why I have that same determination myself. They are why I don’t take small things like family traditions and education for granted. And they are why I now ensure each night as Emma goes to bed we sit together and I tell her not only the stories of my father’s childhood, but of my own. Her favorite is how Pa used to do the same thing for me each night.
Duke’s research is utterly fascinating to me. I’ve always loved my dad’s stories and felt a strong connection to them, but I don’t think I’ve ever realized just how deeply they’ve impacted me. Apparently I’m not alone. According to Duke, telling stories and keeping traditions alive produce happier, more communicative families that are better at resolving conflict and working through tough times.
Today’s assignment is to consider what stories you want to pass down and think of your family’s mission statement.