If there's one thing a dad is put on this planet for it's to tell and read his children bedtime stories. Of course, mums are great too, but dads often have that extra bit of invention when it comes to telling a tale.
Some of that invention is the product of desperation. When faced with reading the same Meg and Mog book for the umpteenth time, things get a bit more interesting when the story has a new ending, or characters mysteriously change what they say in mid-flow.
The problem is that children are creatures of habit and get a bit stressed if the book doesn't go exactly as they know it. So it can take twice as long to get through it as I have to explain the changes. Not that I'm trying to rush or anything.
Well, maybe a little bit as with twins there is an absolute requirement to read two books, one chosen by each. Then we often have a prolonged negotiation on what book goes first.
Once finally into a book, the obvious planting of educational devices often then trips me up on every page. Characters and things always appear in rising numbers, from one to ten. So two little fingers have to count the cockatoos, bricks, ants or whatever while I'm silently cursing the author. Why can't we just tell a good story? Can't we leave maths for another day?
And some books are frankly out of order if read unawares. My own mother has rightly banned the Miffy book in which grandma dies.
Another source of amusement for me is to try and tell Thomas the Tank Engine stories with a Liverpudlian accent like Ringo Starr or Michael Angelis. However, I won't be winning prizes for impersonation, and my audience is likely to say, "Daddy, why are you talking in a funny voice?"
But the best dad stories are the ones you make up yourself. These have the magic ingredient of having your children as starring characters, and there are no counting games allowed. And I can bring them to a conclusion – with a 'to be continued' – just when I like.
Always leave your audience wanting more.
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