As a child rests his head on his mother’s shoulder, images of a fire-breathing dragon guarding an abandoned castle illuminate the imagination visible deep within his eyes. As a little girl sits upon her father’s lap, a handsome prince defeats the dragon and saves her, for she is the maiden princess. These stories and so many others are everywhere, hiding around every corner of childhood and tucked beneath every blanket before bed. The stories we tell often vary in moral, in character, and in design. Do these stories matter? Coming to life at bedsides around the world, our stories have immense power. They determine what we hold dear, they shape who we are, and they mold us into who we will become. The power of stories is not one-dimensional, only having influence on a particular facet of life, but rather multi-dimensional, shaping listeners and, ultimately, changing their lives.
I have my own little girls. We go on fairy hunts, draw faraway lands with neon sidewalk chalk and eat Washtenaw Dairy ice cream like it’s a dietary necessity. Per tradition, we read a minimum of three books before bed. I love when a narrative starring a protagonist female captures their attention. I silently say to myself, “Be bold, be strong like her, little ones.” After book number four or five, I’m often met with incessant pleas: “Emmy, can we please just read one more? Please…”
And so as they fall asleep, I realize that these tales are not simply tales, but arguments. They are rigorous and complex (for the innocent mind). They are scholarly because they are helping to shape tomorrow’s academics. They are peer reviewed by every child asking to read just one more book before they rest their heads.
And sometimes, saving the runt of the litter is the most admirable thing a girl could do.