Posted by: Nancy Keim Comley | July 12, 2011


We want to be authors. Keen and imaginative, with our sharpened pencils or fountain pens or laptops or, most likely for me, scribbles on the backs of old envelopes, we write. We love telling stories. We have made it a career. Writing has both brought us to the brink of nervous breakdown and saved our sanity.

Where does all that creativity come from? For me it comes from many sources, including a hysterical toddler.

I just finished visiting family in the UK with my mother, twin teenage nieces, near-teen daughter and toddler son. People talk about the terrible two’s, but my children experience the tyrannical three’s. A month ago my son woke up one morning with the firm conviction that he is in charge of the world. His personality currently veers from a delightful, cuddly angel to something that should have a name like “Zog, Emperor of Creation.” And with the conviction that he is always right, comes frustration when something goes against his wishes. A few nights ago this frustration exploded and I found myself confronted with an evening of complete hysteria.

He needed to calm down. I needed to get him to stop howling and to settle down enough to sleep in the next several hours. I pulled out the tried and tested approach and whispered a story in his ear. Why whisper? Because if he keeps yelling his head off, he can’t hear the story.

“Did you know there’s a hedgehog named Roger?” I asked.

“HOWL! Sniff! Sniff?” I had a small window, so this had to be good. Rodger the Hedgehog was sooo hungry but he couldn’t find enough slugs to eat. So he came to the door “Knock, knock, knock!” and asked a certain toddler for help.

Success! I had him; he mushed his face into my shirt to dry the pesky tears and asked what happened next. He even smiled when the story called for him to don boots and place the fainting-from-hunger Roger into a bucket to carry from garden to garden.

My brain went into overdrive. Roger made engaging noises whenever a slug was found “Snuffle, snuffle yum-yum-yum!” as hedgehog and boy went on a classic journey of discovery. It may have been from garden to garden in search of slugs, but it was still a hero’s journey.

Roger the Hedgehog is now a firm favorite and told every night. Together we count gardens visited and slugs found and slurped down. Roger always falls asleep, full and contented, to be carried home and put to bed. Then my toddler is placed into bed to follow Roger’s lead (in the sleep department, not the slug eating).

Creativity springs to life in many ways. Stories, in this case, did not arise from the desire to pay rent or to avoid death for a thousand nights. They helped a toddler relax and smoothed his path to bed. And I kept my sanity. Not too shabby.

Posted for Nancy Keim Comley

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