I tell my boys a bedtime story almost every night. Assuming that I started telling stories when my oldest was two (he’s now eight and a half) and that I’ve averaged a story every other night, that would mean I’ve told about 1200 bedtime stories. But I think my pace has been closer to two stories every three nights. In that case, I would’ve told about 1600 stories. Let’s split the difference just to be safe and say that I’ve told somewhere around 1400 stories. And let’s say that each story was 20 minutes long (again, I think this estimate may be low; many of my stories—including the countless interruptions from my sons, who are burgeoning storytellers in their own right and have their own well-developed ideas about believable characters and dramatic reversals—eclipse the 30- or even 45-minute mark). But we’ll be conservative and say the average duration is 20 minutes. That means I’ve spent about 28,000 minutes engaged as nocturnal raconteur. That’s 460 hours of yarn-spinning. Or just a skosh over 19 days of my life telling tall tales.
I don’t claim many (or most) of these have been great stories. But my boys seem to have liked them, so that’s the important thing. We have a rotating cast of recurring characters. When my sons were younger, Derek the Duck and Ricky Raccoon figured into a goodly number of stories. Now that my sons are older and more discerning, sophisticated characters like Stretchy McStretcherson and Bilbo Cattens people (or “animal,” as the case may be) their stories.
I have fallen asleep on numerous occasions when the spell of storytelling has worked its magic on me before it has been so successful on my sons. (It is inadvisable and highly dangerous to tell a bedtime story lying on your back.) Sometimes I don’t feel like rattling my brain for yet another crisis, climax, and denouement—and then my boys prevail upon me for one more story. When they’re “too old” for bedtime stories, I’m sure I’ll miss it. And then I’ll be the one begging them for just one more story.