The Daddy Diary Part 1 – The NeverEnding Story
A veteran journalist tackles his hardest assignment yet: parenthood. A long-time fatherhood fence sitter, he takes his inspiration from a family of storytellers – not to mention the adventures of a boy and his dragon.
By Chris Lackner
“Having a luck dragon with you is the only way to go on a quest.”
That quote from The NeverEnding Story has always stayed with me. It resonates as my wife and I begin preparing for our own big quest: parenthood. In fact, I realize there’s a lot we can learn from the adventures of Atreyu and his dragon Falkor.
Until recently, we were members of the 50/50 club – never quite sure we wanted a child, and never quite sure we wouldn’t regret not having one.
The case against featured the usual suspects: Selfishness (goodbye freedom!), ethics (hello overpopulation!) and cynicism (hello Trumpocalypse!).
The case for a child is harder to explain, but it reminds me of Atreyu’s fight against “The Nothing” – an invisible malaise that was consuming the land of Fantasia. “Is it very painful?” Atreyu asks a troll. The creature explains, “No, you don’t feel a thing. There’s just something missing. And once it gets hold of you, something more is missing every day. Soon there won’t be anything left of us.”
Something was missing in our lives, sure – though that’s almost a cliché. But I realize the monster’s last line speaks more to the power of parenting, and why I want to become a father – just not in the selfish “I want to be remembered when I’m gone” way you might think.
As the movie tells us, “Every real story is a never ending story.” For me, fatherhood is about ensuring that my family’s passion for storytelling, creativity and knowledge live on – even as the memory of my own short time on the planet is taken by The Nothing.
I remember watching The NeverEnding Story in a theatre with my dad. It was one of the many stories we shared together. Some of my favourite childhood memories involve being read to – from my stepdad and mom bringing to life the Chronicles of Narnia, to my dad reading me comics. To me, he’s still the real Wolverine (sorry Hugh Jackman.)
I was lucky enough to have three parents – not to mention many grandparents – that fuelled my imagination. They were all readers or storytellers. Therefore, books became my favourite toys, and conversation one of my favourite pastimes. Stories weren’t a private thing; they were meant to be shared – via games of make-believe, the recounting of dreams, or a family discussion. Stories were intrinsic bonding rituals of bedtime, and every other kind of time – whether gathered around a campfire, a car trip, or lying on a sunny dock. Stories – whether spoken, printed or on a screen – were something to be sought out, shared, and debated.
A fertile imagination never withers. I still have an irrational fear of monsters under my bed after the light goes out. Thankfully, my wife is a scientist; her eye rolls keep me in check.
But stories guided my childhood footsteps; they taught me to see magic in the world around me, and believe in the possibility of more wonders than meets the eye. A rustle of leaves on a forest path wasn’t the wind; it was always a gnome or fairy. My grandmother’s antique wardrobe didn’t store clothes; it was surely a magical portal. As an adult, that lifelong enchantment made me believe that true love might be dancing across from me in a pub. (And that fairy tale actually came true.)
History, community and politics are also held together by stories; I was taught a healthy appreciation for all three, which likely laid the foundation for my journalism career.
Author Patti Davis gets to the heart of the matter: “Stories live in your blood and bones, follow the seasons and light candles on the darkest night. Every storyteller knows she or he is also a teacher.”
That’s why I’m looking forward to our new quest. My wife and I are gathering supplies and preparing for the journey, but the real adventure starts in six months. Parenting, for me, is the chance to play storyteller, to shape a worldview, to teach – to pass on the many gifts I received from my own family.
Eventually, we all become a faded name on a family tree, but the seeds we plant can carry on well past living memory of our time on Earth. My passion for storytelling molded me. Maybe I can ensure that stories will shape the life of the small person we’re about to bring into this crazy world. Maybe someday those stories will shape the lives of people born long after I’m gone.
Never discount the power of stories. As academic Harold Goddard puts it, “The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.”
As parents, we can do a small part to determine that destiny. If not, there won’t be anything left of us.
Photo Credit: Austin Kleon
The Daddy Diary continues in The Ex-Press, for more instalments, click here.
THE EX-PRESS, March 12, 2016