Do you believe in happy endings?

My wife and I spend Friday nights snuggled up on the sofa enjoying the latest that Netflix sends us. We call it “movie night.” This week, although a little behind the times, we took in Adam Sandler’s Bedtime Stories. In boiled-down sense, it is a story about believing in happy endings.

As I watch, it reminded me of some of the wild tales I’ve conjured up for my son, Philo, at bedtime and the parenting power that stories hold.

We’ve always read books to Philo at bedtime, but I often tell him a made-up story if he’s been really good. Or, when he was younger, about three-years old, I’d tell him stories when he was really bad.

Kids are really receptive to stories. Messages are more easily carried on the wings of a great story.

And that’s why I made up “Milo.” A boy who’s name was similar to my son’s. Only Milo was a very, very good boy. And, by design, he was a good role model for a three-year.

So anytime Philo was stuck in a cycle of misbehaving, or if we wanted to help his developmental growth – say, to get him to pick up his toys without us asking – I’d tell him a story about Milo.

Here’s how it started.

“Milo, was four (a year older than my son) and he was always trying to do his best. Sometimes, he didn’t want to do his jobs, but he knew how proud his mommy and daddy would be if he picked up all of his blocks and didn’t fuss before bathtime. And that’s why every night, when his mommy would say, “Ok, Milo, time for your bath, Milo would go right to his job, picking up all the toys in the living room. And when he quickly finished, his mommy and daddy were so proud of him that they each gave him a giant hug and sweet kiss. So proud of himself, Milo marched right down the hall without any fuss to take his bath.”

You know what? It worked like a charm.

After previous weeks of  bath-time tantrums, one story changed the whole game. You can image my relief and pride when the next night, as my wife said, “OK Philo – bathtime,” he perked up and enthusiastically announced, “I’m gonna clean all my toys up first … just like Milo!”

And he did. I couldn’t believe it.

Of course, as life is no fairly tale, there’d be other parental challenges ahead. But we had a major breakthrough and thus, propaganda story night became a regular occurrence at our house.

As he got older, I’d tell him adventure stories about people in trouble somewhere in the world, and I’d always cast him as the hero, Captain Philo. Each story I’d make up, I tried to outdo the last. One night, he’d be in a dense jungle on an Indiana Jones-style quest. The next, he’d be shrunk down to the size of an ant in a far-away land of giants.

Captain Philo spent alot of time in space and at sea surrounded by strange beasts.

He loved it.

Each time, when the other characters had lost all hope, Captain Philo would make a grand entrance. Trumpets sounded. Sunlight broke through the clouds and would-be victims cheered.

And my boy, nestled safely in his bed, would beam with pride as an older, stronger version of himself would brave dangers a’plenty to save those in peril or do good in the world.

And much like the Bedtime Stories my wife and I watched the other night, the tales I tell my son have a grander overarching theme:

Believe in happy endings.

Because there’s a strange force at work in our lives. I may never be able to put my finger on it, but it’s true of life, I’m sure: we get what we expect.

I hope my kids, throughout their whole lives, will expect that if they’re brave, if they strive to help others, and if they seek approval of those who care about them, then good things will happen to them in the end.

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3 Responses to “Do you believe in happy endings?”

  1. Angie Knop Says:

    Beautifully written, and beautifully done as a father!!!

  2. Kelly K. Says:

    Wonderful ideas— thank you, Luke!

  3. Danielle Says:

    Storing this one away for future use;)

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