My youngest brother is six, and started Kindergarten this year.
Thankfully, he handled the transition from all-playtime preschool to school-structured kindergarten pretty well. He knows some of the kids in his class from preschool, and, being social, quickly made a lot of friends.
He is also one of the kids in our family who is fascinated by stories (of which there are a majority). Fictional, nonfictional, some of both–he loves listening to–and telling–a good ol’ fashioned story.
This has resulted in multiple discussions about when it is appropriate to tell a story, and the difference between storytelling and lying.
Because he is both social and loves telling stories, he often tells stories to his class. The latest, during lunchtime, was that our family has a baby bulldog. Very cute, quite rambunctious, extremely bulldog-y.
This baby bulldog saga went on for about a month–until some kids came over to his birthday party and saw that there was no baby bulldog.
So, the next Monday at school, the question was “Where’s the baby bulldog?”
My little brother, quick, said, “The animal shelter came and took it away, because my mom is allergic to cats and dogs.”
The only true part of this very long-lasting, involved fantasy is that my mother is, in fact, allergic to cats and dogs.
When it came to light (through a conversation his teacher had with my dad) that my brother had been lying to his entire class for about a month about our fictitious bulldog puppy (that I desperately wish was not fictitious), he got in pretty big trouble.
It sparked a large talk about how telling stories is okay, if it’s acknowledged that what you’re saying isn’t real, and it’s just for fun–but when you tell people a story that isn’t true, and pretend it is, then that’s lying.
My little brother was not a fan of this discussion.
But it had me thinking. Am I just a pathological liar with a keyboard, or am I something else? What is storytelling? Is it just a long, acknowledged lie?
I came to the conclusion that I am not, in fact, a pathological liar with a keyboard, which was a relieving conclusion.
I think my parents struck a chord with what they said to my brother–people have to know it’s a story for it to be on the right side of the lie/story line.
But I think it goes a little deeper. There’s always truth–about what varies, but there’s always truth–within the stories we tell. Historically, they’ve always related to humanity: from myths that explain how the world works, to dystopian fiction drawing on themes present in current or past governments, all of it contains reality.
Sometimes, reality is a little hard to swallow.
A spoonful of sugar, my friends.
Anyway, that’s that for the day. The other aspect of this post, I guess, is that my little brother is a) either another one of us narratively-inclined folk, or b) a budding psychopath. But that remains to be seen.