Stories By Group
BY BOB CAIRNS
As usual, it started with a nudge from my wife, “Bob, since you published numerous reminiscences about your childhood with Sports Illustrated, don’t you think this might be a good time to write those bedtime stories you’ve been promising our grandkids?”
I did and you can too.
My grandson Jack is seven. Julia is four. They call me Grumps. When my kids were little I loved creating bedtime stories, everything from my childhood to Santa and his hilarious elves. I could go for weeks on the family pets. Don’t get me started on that $40 donkey, Mr. Bones!
So I decided to give Stories by Grumps a whirl and I encourage other grandparents to tell their own stories.
My grandkids live six hours away. The good news is that we didn’t need COVID-19 to kick-start Stories by Grumps.
Here’s how Stories by Grumps (or whatever you want to call your stories) can work for you.
I call my daughter and ask what Jack and Julia are focused on these days. “Well, lately they’ve been obsessed with Star Wars and that inappropriate book called Captain Underpants,” she says.
So, knowing what a seven and four-year-old might find entertaining, I knock out a little bedtime story called: May the Farts be with You!
Hey, in Stories by Grumps we might want to clean it up and go with a parody called Star Warts. But having cranked out over fifty of these little gems, I now know that the kids’ inclusion is the key and again that just about any theme will work–pets, favorite toys, holidays–Santa and those elves can entertain the little beggars for the entire month of December.
I learned that I’m playing to very loving, meaningful, and encouraging listeners. Not a writer you say, don’t need to be, you’re their grandparent and have a natural and attentive audience. Oh, for bedtime they are a win-win! The parents have that “Now, off to bed if you want to hear tonight’s Story by Grumps!” And the kids? Well, they get to stretch out bedtime and stay up a few extra minutes with their loving grandparent.
Feel free to take any of the Grumps stories; concepts, characters, locations, etc., and adapt them to your grandkids’ stories!
- When possible include your grandkids in the story.
- Be sure to ask their parents what the kids are focused on. It can be anything from dinosaurs and sled dogs to their new playhouse or focus on activities, hiking, baseball, dance classes or gymnastics, etc.
- When possible make your grandkids the heroes or the central characters.
- Although kids may not complain if a story is a bit long (i.e., a way for them to dodge going to bed or sleep) keep ‘um reasonably short and within their attention limits.
- If your grandkids have pets, you can drop them into the story too.
- If your grandkids have a doll or little stuffed animals they drag around, feature them. Jack and Julia have twin stuffed puppies called the Mulligans. In one of my stories, I featured the day that Jeffery, a stuffed monkey of Jack’s got jealous of the stuffed pups, wrecked the house, and then blamed the Mulligans.
- Have a moral in the story. Work in the importance of being good, respectful, honest, loving to their friends and family. Drop in a bad guy like Gimmie Jimmy, one of Santa’s greedy elves.
- Tell stories about your childhood. They want to know what their grandparents were like as children and the things we did. Drop-in a character like Brian Benedict, who tricked Grumps and his fellow Cub Scouts and their fathers into what they thought was a Charity Turkey Shoot that turned out to be a Shirkey Toot—a farting contest.
- Use national holidays as a stage for the stories–Christmas, the North Pole, with Santa and his (sometimes) imperfect elves is the perfect focus for numerous stories.
- Have your grandkids dreaming. It opens up the potential for anything you’d like to tell. When Jack and Julia wake up they get together and decide that maybe Jeffery the toy monkey really didn’t wreck their house and blame it on the Mulligans, their stuffed toy pups.
- Be creative, make the stories end in a laugh, or some heroics, or perhaps a mystery that the kids solve, or something self-deprecating that their grandparents did as children that will send them off to dreamland with a smile.
Good luck and if you have any questions, Grumps is here to help you make this fun-filled family connection.
In addition to being a proud and creative granddad. Bob Cairns is the creator of the new website, Stories by Grumps where Cairns showcases his best stories for kids and inspires other grandparents to share theirs. Bob has been a published writer for many years. His books include the novel, The Comeback Kids and the Pen Men: Baseball’s Greatest Bullpen Stories by the Men Who Brought the Game Relief. He also wrote numerous pieces for Sports Illustrated and SI for Kids. For 34 years Bob wrote for North Carolina State University.