saving my life.

Students lie to me every day. I know where that book is. It’s at home. I’ll bring it tomorrow. Or, My teacher sent me in here and she said I don’t need a note. Or, I didn’t touch it and I don’t know how it broke. I cock an eyebrow and I try not to fight every skirmish.

Several years ago, a friend and I had a conversation about unreliable narrators. I love books with unreliable narrators, I told her. She found the idea less charming. I understand that better now. Some days I come home and I just want to be told the truth for a couple of hours.

Which is the opposite of what Atticus is doing these days. He remembers things and he has words for things and he can tell us about them. But his grasp of time is not always certain, and he doesn’t always get the players quite right. He tells me about one of his classmates, who was crying, he says, because of crayons. When I ask if he took the crayons from his classmate, he looks away. Because he is no longer interested in the story or because he’s guilty? Who can tell? Every day I ask him what he played with at school, and he says trucks. He loves trucks, but surely he played with other toys? Another student, he tells me, was crying because of his bottom. Could be. Or maybe Atticus’s diaper rash was bothering him and he projected that onto his friend. I end up with more questions than answers when I talk to him about his day.

At the same time, he sings songs that he learned in school, and he sometimes randomly just lists off all his friends. I can tell they are learning so many things. I just can’t quite pin him down to find out what they all are.

It makes me laugh, living with an unreliable narrator. It feels as if we are creating stories together in a choose-your-own adventure way. I have no idea how closely they resemble the truth, but I love to hear the ideas coming out of his head, the way he thinks and then answers me. I could probably track down answers to some of these questions, but instead I try to simply enjoy it. These dubious conversations with my toddler, they are what is saving my life this week. What is saving your life?

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  1. This post makes me more excited about novels with unreliable narrators. If only adult characters who are unreliable narrators could be as charming and delightful as the children in our lives.

    Posted 10/6/2012 at | Permalink
  2. Some of my students are fabulous storytellers. They save my life every week. From having pets ranging from lions to monkeys to going on adventures to Guatemala or the moon, I love that their imaginations make up for the limitations in their real words. (Most of them go no farther than the laundromat.)

    Posted 10/6/2012 at | Permalink
  3. Mark Allman

    I enjoy stories my teacher daughter comes home and tells. These should be collected and published! I know some adults who have proven to be unreliable narrators by choice and some are just so who knows why. They are not so enjoyable.

    Posted 10/8/2012 at | Permalink

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