Sometime in December, I decided it was time to start doing a regular storytime with my kids again. But I knew I didn’t have the spoons to do a nightly storytime. So instead, I started Shabbat story time.
At 7:30pm on Shabbat, Kid 1 and Kidling and I would gather on the couch with a couple of story books and I’d read to them. After the first week, I decided that I wanted to have a chapter book that we read some each week, in addition to the short stories the kids picked out.
So I pulled out Pratchett’s Wee Free Men and began introducing the kids to Tiffany Aching, Second Thoughts, Granny Aching, and the Nac MacFeegle.
The Blessing of Modern Technology
In spite of the long distance, Michon and I have always been able to maintain a close relationship. And since we met him, Dilip Numetor Amelia Chetana Waller and I have mostly done the same. But building relationships and family with kids long distance is a challenge of monumental proportions.
Sure, Michon and Kid 2 and Kidlet will (hopefully!) be moving down here over the summer. But however well the Kid 2 and Kidlet connected with me and Michael a year ago, without a car we haven’t been able to visit since last winter, and a year is a long time for kids.
But they remember us (and Kid 1 and Kidling remember and ask after both the other kids and Michon.) I wanted a way to keep all the kids connected to each other and the long distance adults in the family. It occurred to me that Shabbat story time might be the perfect opportunity.
Granted, it meant breaking my observance of being offline for Shabbat, but it is also a mitzvah to spend Shabbat with family. So…
Now at around 7:15 every Shabbat evening, I make sure that the sound input on my computer is set to headset, but the output is set to the speakers. Then I call on Michon on Discord and Kid 2 gets to pick one of three stories from the Standing on One Foot collection. (We’re almost done with that collection. I’m thinking Aesop’s Fables next.)
Sadly, we don’t have a way for Kidlet to pick out stories for me to read. He’s just not verbal enough for me to read off a selection to him and let him pick out a story. But he can listen, at least.
Then I read three or four short stories and a chapter from Wee Free Men. Well, usually a chapter. Last week the chapter was twice as long as usual and we had tech issues, so we stopped halfway through the chapter to continue next week.
Looking to Shabbats Future (and Future)
Michon and I have talked about how we can continue this evenings once they move down here. We’d already been talking about my household going to stay with them every weekend (leases allowing) once they move down here. So we’ll be able to continue Shabbat story time in person, instead of over the internet.
When we do, it won’t be just me reading. I’ve talked before about the role of traditions in keeping a family together across generations. Shabbat story time has all the ingredients for a good traditions. It’s not dependent on any specific person or people — anyone can listen and anyone can read (or tell stories that aren’t in books!) It makes people feel good. It’s easy for people to take part in (just show up! [or call in!]). And it can be adapted to new situations (move it to a new place, switch languages, move from reading to reciting, many options!). It’s all-ages friendly if you pick the right stories.
So, in the near future, we’ll continue this new tradition in person. And we’ll start adding in other readers, so story time doesn’t get intrinsically tied to me being the reader. If it continues to work as well in person as it has so far, then we’ll have a solid start on a new tradition. One that I, at least, can easily see myself enjoying for the rest of my life.