Bedtime Stories Blues
A big part of the law professor’s job involves being able to think on your feet, whether it be in a faculty workshop or in front of a first-year class using the socratic method. Over the years, I’ve gotten better at both of those formats, though I still have a lot to learn. In my nearly five years of parenting, though, I have not really improved in the vital area of nighttime improvisational story telling. This is despite daily practice and genuine effort. I do try to substitute children’s books, which I consider a kind of bedtime story prostethtic for people like me, who have trouble coming up with their own. But, even after I’ve read them a few books, my kids continue to demand an improvised story every night after the lights go out, often with baroque plots whose broad outlines they dictate. As I speak the stories, I am embarrassed by their lameness and by my poor use of language, both of which are only highlighted by comparison with the children’s books I just finished reading. Unlike my colleague, Mike Dorf, I would never dream of posting mine online as podcasts. In fact I hope my kids forget them and at some point stop asking me to tell them. My story telling woes may be due to exhaustion due to chronic sleep deprivation associated with fatherhood, but I fear they reflect some deeper mental defect. I haven’t settled on just what kind or whether it is progressive.