Bed time is such an important time for young children. Over the years, our good-night routine has evolved and changed. I started by singing songs to Areli, Cole, and Cadin as they lay in their beds in their darkened room. I think I enjoyed the peaceful melodies even more than they did.
Then I heard that if you read poetry to young children, they will grow up to be poets. Who was I to hinder their writing careers, so poetry reading became the norm. My favorites were always from A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. I must admit that none of them enjoy writing poetry now as teenagers, but perhaps someday they will hear one of those familiar rhymes and be taken back to a sweet childhood memory.
More babies came and Areli, Cole, and Cadin didn’t command as much of my attention at bed time anymore. They would read to themselves in their beds, followed by music or books on CD. Sometimes this was great! Other times, not so much. I would find out later that a particular child would be frightened by a certain story, usually something that I wouldn’t have expected. Other times, Cole would be bothered by the noise while he was trying to sleep. Areli was such a creature of habit, that she couldn’t fall asleep without the tape or CD on. She would pull the tape player over to her bed, turn the volume down, and listen to it under her pillow.
Once Areli came to me late in the evening. I had put a lullaby CD on for her at bedtime and thought she was sleeping. She was crying and shaking and said that the songs made her sad. She has no idea why, but she dislikes lullabies to this day. I discontinued the practice of leaving them alone with a CD at night and favored listening to stories all together at lunchtime. Then I could talk about the story with the children and understand how each one felt about each book. We had some wonderful times listening to all the Chronicles of Narnia, Little Women, and even Jane Eyre.
Areli, Cole, and Cadin grew big enough that they didn’t need someone to tuck them in at night. It was now Ashlyn, Chai, Cooper, and Calvin’s turn. I found Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime stories published in 1951. This book was full of short stories; each one was true and contained an important life lesson or moral. I loved these stories!
Other times I would ask them to share what they enjoyed most about their day. Then we would take turns praying.
I am a natural storyteller, so it is funny that it took me 17 years into my mothering career before I started telling bedtime stories. In fact, storytelling is in my blood. My Papa used to delight my brother and I with his bedtime stories about a tiny but feisty girl named Squeegee. She was so little that she could crawl through a Cheerio. She had a pet mosquito name Quito who she rode like a horse. I always begged Papa for Indian stories. His voice would transport us to a remote Indian village where I was transformed into an Indian princess and my brother, Jason was a young brave. Of course, Squeegee was always there too.
I loved those stories, and we still have some of them preserved on cassette tapes. It is strange that I never thought of telling bedtime stories of my own…until now.
It was Courage Justice who started it.
He wanted a bedtime story, so I began a yarn about the first thing that popped into my head…gummy bears. More and more details spilled out of my mouth until I had a whole cast of characters (four special gummy bears and their friends, Cooper, Calvin, and Courage). The adventures would be something little boys would enjoy, and I received plenty of suggestions and help from the three young boys themselves.
They would take trips to Venice in a rocket ship. They would visit their grandparents in Colorado where they splashed in Uncle Wilber (those of you from Colorado Springs will understand), climb mountains, and parachute from planes. The gummy bears found tiny sombreros and toured the southwest with a Mariachi band. This led to an appearance on Good Morning America and a trip to Walt Disney World where the gummy bears and the boys dressed up as dwarfs and took part in a parade.
We just finished talking about the summer they all spent in Texas on Hank’s Cattle Ranch learning to be Cowboys. The four gummy bears spent most of their time enjoying the view from Courage’s cowboy hat. Sometimes they had to take it easy UNDER Courage’s cowboy hat because they realized that too much sun made them squishy and too much rain made them melt.
The five-day cattle drive was hard, but they met a lot of new friends along the way. Who could forget the turquoise lizard that wanted to travel along in Cooper’s saddle bag or the dragonfly, Zip who became Calvin’s pet? They also enjoyed a pow-wow at an Indian village and had quite a shopping spree with all the money they earned after the cattle were auctioned off. Each boy had to buy their mom a special present, of course. I must admit, I was hoping for some Native American jewelry or maybe even my own horse. Courage was quite proud when he announced that he had purchased for me… a toothbrush. Oh well! I do love to brush my teeth!
Courage enjoyed these nighttime stories so much, that he began coming to me many times a day.
“Tell me a gummy bear sto-whee!” he would say.
I wasn’t always available to snuggle with him and tell a story, so the older children would begin to continue the adventure with their own stories.
It is amazing how these stories take on a life of their own and transport all who listen to a magical place. I enjoy all the adventures that I have had with Cooper, Calvin, Courage, and the gummy bears.
I do not recommend that you allow your children to eat gummy bears. They are bad for you in about 10 different ways. But they are also our friends, and we do not eat our friends, do we?
I do highly recommend them as traveling companions into the imagination of a child…and then into peaceful landscape of dreamland. If all the gummy bears are unavailable, you could try looking up a tiny woman who is known for her courageous spirit. She is in her 40s now, but still young at heart and up for a good bedtime adventure!