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The Stories of Our Fathers

By Dr. Brittany Birken, the Florida Children’s Council.

If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.
~Rudyard Kipling

The older I get, the more I realize how much I draw upon my parents’ wisdom and words they shared with me when I was a growing child—particularly that of my father. I hear him in my head often. He is a storyteller who would create untraditional analogies to impart life lessons. The stories come back to me one-by-one depending on the circumstances in my life. I take great comfort in remembering his words vividly and sharing many of them with my own son.

My father still tells stories—about our ancestry, his childhood, his years maturing into his career, family members and cherished friends. He shares his theories on life and gives insights that really make you stop and think. All of this from the quietest member of our large Olivieri clan.

As my son grows and matures, I spend a great deal of time reflecting on what defined me as a person—and how I came to be who I am today. I recognize that my father and his life-lessons inspired so much of how I navigate the world.

Storytelling is a powerful way to create lasting memories and feed our basic human need to connect. By handing down from one generation to the next the history of our ancestors and their trials, tribulations and successes, we shape our children and their futures. These life lessons help children understand the world is bigger than they are. They bind them to family and give them the security and knowledge that they belong, yet can be independent in their development. Stories really are a protective shield that help children interpret their world. And, they are the very life lessons that inspire—and make us aspire to be great, to dream, and to achieve.

In our service to families, we must be sensitive to this valuable gift. Parents may not always realize the critical role they play as a child’s first teacher. Our job as advocates is to encourage and empower them to impart life lessons from their families and their own experiences. By helping parents and caregivers celebrate their own histories, cultures and paths, we enrich the early learning experience for all of Florida’s children.

In the hustle and bustle of daily lives, it’s easy to put storytelling on the back burner. As parents, grandparents, advocates and activists, let’s take a lesson from my Dad and make time to share wisdom with our children that will inspire future generations.