Cheeseburgers, Uncle Charlie, and Sleeping Bear

With Father's day approaching, I asked my husband if he would take a few minutes to write about the special bedtime tradition he started with our boys. I'm so excited for you to hear from him, so without further ado, my husband and baby daddy, Ben James.

Recently, I read the book Wild at Heart by John Eldridge. I was late to the party, as I can remember the days when every Christian man seemed to be reading and discussing this book, but I’m incredibly grateful that I read this at a time when I had young kids. In this book full of wisdom for men, John shared about the years when his sons were young, and around bedtime they would frequently request to “snuggle.” He went on to explain what this snuggling time entailed. This was the inspiration behind what came to be known in our home as “storytime.” Being reminded of the increased opportunity for teachable moments, vulnerable conversations, and having my children’s full attention, I knew this was something I wanted to get started on in our home.

I explained to my boys, currently ages 7 and 5, that we would sometimes have storytime after bedtime devotions and prayers. I told them that sometimes I would tell stories, or they can ask me any question they want (the questions part was another bit of wisdom passed on by a dad I met at a marriage conference). Our rules around storytime are simply that we all gather in the same bed, turn the lights out, and lie close to one another during this time.

I have told stories about my memories from childhood, which led them to ask more questions about what my growing up years were like. This has given me opportunities to teach them a few things I’ve learned along with the story. I have also taken opportunities to revisit an event or interaction from earlier in the day, in order to share how proud I was of their obedience or kindness, or to review the importance of the lesson their mother and I are trying to teach them through discipline.

I have made up ridiculous stories starring a cheeseburger (and they’ve learned to manage their disappointment when the story always ends with the cheeseburger being eaten). I have told stories from the perspective of “Uncle Charlie,” an older country gentleman who adventures into the wild on horseback and continues to meet animals (and even trees) that talk. My oldest son frequently asks me “What’s the moral?” at the end of the story. Sometimes there is one, and sometimes the story is told solely so that we can spend time together.

There are times when I’m too tired, not feeling creative in the least, and we agree that my stories were “not as good tonight,” but what I am thankful for is that the boys still request storytime frequently. And, on occasion, we enjoy a game of “sleeping bear,” in which I pretend to be asleep while holding them as if they were a teddy bear, they wriggle their way out of my arms, and then I wake up just long enough to grab them again.

I look forward to this tradition with my boys continuing to be a source of affection, laughter, and meaningful teaching moments as they grow up. What is truly amazing to me is that they have the ability to recall almost every story days or weeks later! This is added proof to me that anything said or done during this time will have a lasting impact – and the impact I wish to have right now is simply that my boys know I like to spend time with them, I want to be available to them, and that their Heavenly Father feels the same way.

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