I’ve enjoyed writing all my life, from simple stories and rhymes in grade school to creative short stories and poems in high school and college. There were often long stretches of time when I didn’t write anything, but it was always there, just below the surface.
When my third son was born, just over five years ago, I started writing a blog. It certainly wasn’t because I had more time. If anything, our move to zone defense had squeezed even more of what remaining free time that I might have had. Regardless of our new arrival, and more likely because of him, I started writing as often as I could about my experiences in life as a dad to three boys. Some posts came fast and often. Others were drawn out and sparse. But looking back, I can easily see how they helped me cope along the journey. A collection of therapeutic jots about the good, the bad, and the messy that come along with raising three little guys who are often bouncing off the walls. Literally. A modern-day journal about life as a dad.
I treasure our yearly photo albums. Capturing those family moments that my faded memory too often forgets. For years, my wife and I were diligent about making a hardcover Shutterfly photo book with the year’s pictures, but we’re two or three years behind at the moment. Perhaps my writing time has eaten away at any remaining picture book organizing time. Either way, just as I love to flip through those old photo books, I occasionally get lost on my website, clicking on the teaser links to old blog posts from years past. The ones I’ve forgotten I’d written, that seem new, but magically familiar.
A few years ago, as the oldest boys’ attention spans started to grow along with their shoe sizes, I started writing a story. It began as an adventure to keep their interest at bedtime. I’d been reading them books like Narnia, abridged classics like Tom Sawyer, White Fang, and Last of the Mohicans. Enough that I had a good sense of what they enjoyed and kept their interest. From spare moments on a weekend layover in San Diego emerged two young brothers named Sam and Derek and their summer adventures in the woods. They just happened to resemble a couple of boys that lived in my house.
What was started in those early days of story writing for bedtime has blossomed into a side “career” of nights, weekends, and vacations spent self-publishing books. While it may never pay the bills, it’s opened a world of creative satisfaction that I couldn’t have imagined. Engagement and feedback from not just my boys, but from countless other young readers, has been amazing. And while the writing is still therapeutic, and independent publishing has sparked my entrepreneurial spirit, I love that it’s bringing adventures and mysteries to young minds that are hungry for substance.
Over Memorial Day, I sat down with my two oldest boys. I previewed them a very rough draft of the beginning of Sam and Derek book number three. They begged me to keep going for over an hour, long after I’d grown tired of reading. They’re biased, I understand, and not an entirely representative sample, since I’m their dad. But it’s a thrill to hear them laugh, to see them smile as they take in the latest tales that I’ve cooked up. I watch their younger brother, who can’t remember a time when dad didn’t write. I love that my stories will still be there for him to hear with fresh excitement. And perhaps, someday, his children.
Because stories don’t expire. Particularly children’s stories. They’re evergreen. New laughter and smiles keep coming along, year after year. New classrooms of kids to smile, wide-eyed at what you’ve done. To joyfully tell you how amazing it was to read what you wrote. To listen in wonder as you describe that they can do incredible things with their imagination. That’s the best part. And more than ever before, that’s the reason I write.