Tell Better Stories #TheEichLife
A few years ago, I got into a conversation with my daughter Sadie – then just a year or two into elementary school -- about friendship. The whole concept is new at that age and it seems we were probably discussing who-said-what in the lunch line or which kids wanted to play tag at recess.
For some reason, I had the dumb idea to ask this question:
“Who do you think is Daddy’s best friend?”
I figured she would go for the classic answers: Herself? Her mom? Her uncle (my kid brother)? My pal from childhood, Ben. They all would have been correct.
“Jerry Jamison?” she answered. There was a question mark in her voice, but it didn’t take long for her to come to this conclusion.
I was shocked.
Here is a little background:
Jerry Jamison is NOT my best friend. In fact, I don’t like the guy. At the time, we worked together and he was quite difficult to be around. It seemed that I was daily in conflict with him. I know I muttered to myself more than once, “Things would be a LOT easier if I just didn’t have to deal with Jerry!”
I tried to maintain my composure with Sadie. I attempted nonchalance.
“Hmm. What makes you say that?” I asked.
“You talk about him all the time, Dad.” It wasn’t pointed. She was just stating a fact.
It felt like a gutpunch.
Now there is a point to be made here about the perceptiveness of children; how you never know who is listening and you should watch what you say. And that is true, I guess. Sadie clearly heard me venting about frustrations and irritations to her mother and without much context and no real concern figured any name that came up that much in conversation must be one of the good guys.
But there is a bigger area of concern in this situation for me.
I have been telling the wrong stories.
Let me illustrate.
One time, Sadie’s mom and I went the wrong way while attempting to detour around roadwork in rural Arkansas and accidentally led 100 cars into a cul-de-sac. It created the most epic traffic jam that farming town had ever seen. It’s a funny tale that brings me to tears of laughter almost every time I think about it. But Sadie didn’t know that story.
My brother and I used to send sound files across the internet so we could feign being in a band together, cutting and pasting guitar sounds and drumbeats into computer programs and wishing we were rockstars. But Sadie didn’t know that story.
My childhood pal Ben? He was one of the first people at the NICU when Sadie spent two weeks there shortly after being born. He stood right next to me and cried openly, worried about the little baby girl who was having trouble breathing. But Sadie didn’t know that story.
Sadie just overheard boring anecdotes about uninteresting people who I found annoying and she had never met. What a waste of time….
She must think being an adult is a real drag.
So I am working on my storytelling.
Because, sure – actions may speak louder than words. But words can be pretty loud, too.