I have had many joys over my fatherhood and now, grandfatherhood. For all these manifold graces, I give thanks:
For camping trips across much of the lower 48 states and the Canadian Rockies.
For sailing adventures in the upper Great Lakes on my parent’s sailboat.
For the many years of soccer coaching, including my grandaughter’s current team, the Zoom.
For home improvement projects, in which my kids always took an active role. I’ll never forget the look in their eyes when I gave two pre-kindergartners dust masks, goggles, and hammers and told them to “take down that wall.”
We didn’t shy away from things that took our family out of our normal comfort zones, but that being said, there was always one place that was centering for my kids, grandkids, and yes, even for me. As bedtime approached—like clockwork—our nightly rituals would kick in: PJs on, teeth brushed, and then “pick out some books to read.”
Fatherhood (and Grandfatherhood) Rituals
From kid-to-kid there have been variations to these bedtime rituals at our house. Most recently, our granddaughter, Kylie, who lives with us, insists that:
We read at least two stories upstairs. Then, either my wife or I have to hide downstairs where her bedroom is... and a brief game of Hide-and-Go-Seek ensues. After which, she jumps into a laundry basket and expects to be swung around in it a bit.
We then read our Spark Story Bible story of the night. This then concludes with a German bedtime prayer, a drink of water, and a formal send off by Kylie: “Good night! Love you! Tip toe! Hold hands wherever you go like the black and white boys on the Youtube video.”
I kid you not, this is an every night thing for us!
Human beings take comfort in ritual. I think our world feels so chaotic at times because we don’t let enough ritual infiltrate the madness with order—especially with God’s cosmic order. For me, that’s called worship. At the heart of worship, as with our family’s bedtime rituals, is sacred story. It’s as if ritual provides the setting and story provides the jewel.
And I must say that no ruby, emerald, or diamond is more precious to me than the jewel that is our evening storytime. As a father and grandfather, for all the more epic memories of family adventures, the most rooted memories, the most deeply seated joys, are literally seated—in my recliner, side-table lamp glowing with just enough light, perhaps cold snow blowing outside. But inside, on my lap, a warm and eager child ready to read a book together.
What Father's Day really means
When I think of Father’s Day, it’s easy to default to the seemingly greater graces of being able to do fun things, big things, memorable things, together as a family. The kind of stuff I began this post with. But if I pause a bit to think of what has given me the most lasting satisfaction and strongest moments of bonding with my kids and grandkids, I’m back to that old brown leather recliner reading books—first to, then with, and then as an audience for my budding readers.
And we don’t just read words in our family, we read with gusto! We read with heart and soul. Emotions, imaginations, even gesticulations are all part of how we read. We are our own pop-up book! I’ll never forget my granddaughter, Kylie’s, reaction to the words “Let my people go!” from Moses’ encounter with Pharaoh. She spontaneously popped up from my lap and thankfully we were able to capture the moment on video! It’s so awesome to see how books can transform kids into agents of God’s justice and love. I think we’ve got a little liberator on our hands!
I have read many age-appropriate Bibles to my kids/grandkids as we’ve played out our bedtime rituals together over the years. The Spark Story Biblehas worked well for our daily moments of sacred story, because we find that it’s so expressive. It even offers sound effects at times! But lately Kylie’s been gravitating to the Frolic Preschool Bible. Not for me to read to her, but for her to read to me. And that’s been working really well! It’s so much fun to see her read her favorite stories out of a new Bible. The differences in the way various Bibles tell the stories become occasions for conversation—and believe me, after hearing the Spark Story Bibleversion umpteen times, any variations are discussion worthy!
So, my fatherhood storytelling recipe for Father's Day?
Find a story Bible or book that leans into faith formation. We offer a host of them! (and until June 30, you can get 50% off your favorite Frolic bundles with code BUNDLE50!)
Find a cozy corner with good lighting.
Find a child that’s eager to be read to, perhaps several of them.
Find a comfortable positon for lap-sitting.
Nestle in and read…out loud, with feeling, leaving room for questions and comments. Even inviting them!
Make it a ritual.
There are lots of things that fathers and grandfathers might contemplate doing with the kids in their lives. But trust me in this, there’s nothing more satisfying than reading bedtime stories with them!