You don’t believe me, do you?
That’s okay, no one does—until they see the proof.
Oh yes, I have proof and I’ll show it to you in a moment.
The reason I’m now raising this story about the time I got bitten by a lion is because my kids have been clamoring to hear it over and over lately. There isn’t much to tell, really—the lion was sitting there calmly one moment and then sinking its teeth into my flesh the next—but the kids seem to enjoy my reenactment, especially the part where I let out a sudden bloodcurdling shriek.
In Strange-But-True Tales: Baby Chicks in the Bathtub, I first stressed the idea of mining your past for memorable experiences that can engage your children and nurture their language ability. Children love to hear stories from their parents’ younger years—the more amusing, the better—and mealtimes are the ideal setting to regale your kids with such tales.
I realize this is something we all do naturally when memories are jogged in the course of conversation, but my advice is to pursue this more proactively, even taking a little time to reflect and note down some of your favorites for later retelling. Once you start spinning stories from your past, your children will no doubt eagerly demand to hear more.
At the same time, I also recommend that you make an effort to tell “made-up memories.” Unlike real experiences—which are obviously limited—you have an inexhaustible supply of “memories” when you just make them up. Of course, you have to distinguish between “fact” and “fiction,” but this generally isn’t a problem when the made-up memories are madcap tales that children quickly recognize as flights of fancy.
As I explain fully in Using Made-Up Memories to Engage Bilingual Kids, you can tell fantastical tales that “took place” in your own childhood or even insert your kids into the stories by “recalling” experiences featuring them as babies and toddlers. (One of my recurrent tales involves baby Roy crawling out of the house in diapers and the many adventures that occur while he’s on the loose.) You’ll probably even find that your children get in the spirit of this, too, and begin actively sharing their own silly “memories.”
Remember: It’s all about language exposure and practice—and making it fun wherever you can.
Now I know you’re anxious to hear more about the time I got bitten by a lion (don’t worry, I survived!) so I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. Maybe you still don’t believe me—you’re thinking it’s just one of those dumb “made-up memories.” But I told you, I have proof.
First, here’s what happened…
We were at “Safari Land”—like a drive-through zoo where the animals are roaming about—and at the entrance was a new lion cub and you could pay to have your picture taken with it. (This was before Roy was born so it was just me, Keiko, and Lulu.)
Well, I was sitting there, holding this sweet lion cub on my lap, when suddenly he turned and chomped right on my arm! YOW!
He was probably just being playful, really—since I bet he could have eaten half my bicep if he wanted to—but, believe me, getting bitten by any sort of lion is still pretty painful! (Better me than little Lulu, though, who was beside me there on Keiko’s lap! )
And here’s the proof…
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