Phillip the Mouse and Being too Small
One day Phillip found himself with his dad at the home of the Dotty family. The Dottys were his neighbors three-mouseholes-down, and he and his dad were helping Mr. Dotty to dig a new guest chamber. While they were working, Mr. Dotty’s son Felix came in.
“Dad!” he said. “The fair just opened in town this morning! Can I go?”
Mr. Dotty thought, and then said that would be alright. Phillip thought the fair sounded very exciting, so he tugged his dad’s paw and asked if he could go, too.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” Felix said quickly. “The fair is for us big mice, you are too small to go.”
“Felix…” Mr. Dotty said sternly. “Phillip has been being a big help to us, and the fair is for everyone. If Phillip’s father says he can go then you’ll take him with you.”
Phillip’s dad said it was fine for him to go, which Felix wasn’t too pleased with. Even so, he had to mind his father, and the two of them set off down the country road to town. They went along silently, following the road through a grove of trees until they came to a narrow point between two cliff faces. Here a recent rockslide had fallen across the way, and was blocking their path forward.
Felix looked left, then right, and then up at the obstacle for a moment. Next he crouched down and waggled his tail, jumped up high, and grabbed the top edge of the nearest rock. With a little scrambling he pulled himself onto the top, and then leapt for the next boulder. Phillip tried to copy him, looking left and right and up, crouching down, waggling his tail, and leaping! But he fell far short of the rock’s edge and fell back on the ground. After trying a few more times it was clear he just couldn’t make the jump.
“Wait, help!” He called out. “I can’t reach.”
Felix looked down and shook his head. “I told you that you were too small. If you’re not big enough to reach that first rock, then there’s no way you’ll make it over this whole pile. You’d better head back home.” Then he turned and continued on his way.
At that Phillip sat down and cried. Maybe Felix was right, maybe he really was too small. And now would miss out on all the fun. But as he sat there, drying his eyes, Phillip happened to notice a hollow log that had fallen underneath the rockslide, laying on the ground with its end pointed towards him. He scurried over and saw that it ran all the way to the other side of the rockslide and, even better, was just the right size for him. Phillip bolted through, and then laughed the rest of the way to the fair.
Some time later Felix managed to get over the rockslide, down the other side, and finally arrived at the fair. He was amazed to see that Phillip had not only made it there himself, but also beaten him to it!
“Maybe you are bigger than me,” Phillip admitted. “But I’m just the right size for me and I can get where I need to go!”
Felix nodded sheepishly and apologized, then the two of them went and had a lot of fun.
Phillip the Mouse and the Terrifying Frog
Phillip the Mouse was out exploring in the marshes one day. Whenever he came to a little stream he would hop across the lily pads to the other side, and if there weren’t any lily pads he would climb the tall grasses until they bent over and made bridges for him. He was imagining that he was a great explorer, traveling into a deep and ancient forest. Who knew what sorts of monsters might be lurking just around the corner?
To Phillip it had just been a pretend game, but then, as he lifted a leafy branch, he found himself actually face-to-face with one of those monsters! It was a low, hulking, green creature with giant, bulging eyes. Even as Phillip was staring at the creature it started swelling up bigger and bigger, getting even larger than Phillip! Phillip could feel his heart racing and his whiskers twitching. He felt very afraid, so he dropped to all fours, puffed up his fur, stood his tail out straight, and opened his mouth wide to show his teeth. “Hhhhkkk!” he hissed threateningly.
If there’s one thing you don’t expect a monster to do, it’s to cry, but that was exactly what this one started to do. The creature’s whole body deflated, and Phillip could see now that it was shaking. “Stop it!” the creature said with a small voice. “Why are you being so mean?!”
Phillip felt a little ashamed and his fur smoothed down a bit. “What? I’m not being mean. You’re the one who’s a scary monster!”
“I’m not a monster!” the supposedly-non-monster sobbed. “I’m just a little frog. And if you’re not being mean, then why am I the one who is crying?”
Phillip realized the little frog had a point and he stood back up on his back paws and stopped baring his teeth. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t want to be mean, I was just trying to protect myself when I saw you puffing up there.”
“Oh… did that frighten you? That’s just what I do when I’m startled. I wasn’t sure what to think when I first saw you.”
Phillip paused, a thought bubbling up inside of him. “Maybe we were both being mean and scary,” he finally admitted, “but we only did that because we felt frightened of each other.”
The frog thought this over. “Yes…I think that happens with people sometimes. But…I’m not really afraid of you anymore.”
“Me either. I’m Phillip, by the way, and I’m a mouse. What’s your name?”
“Chester. What were you doing here anyway?”
“I was exploring,” Phillip said proudly, “and looking for exciting secrets in the marshes.”
“Like me?” Chester laughed. “Well, you know, I live here and I know where some more great secrets are. Would you like me to show you?”
Phillip thought that sounded wonderful. Exploring the marsh together was going to be a lot less frightening if he had a friend along with him, and unless he was very much mistaken he had just made one.
On Monday my post was about imbuing your stories with messages or principles. These two stories for my son were ones I developed as a way to deliver tailored lessons to him, concepts that I hope will help him deal with his day-to-day situations.
The first story was based off of his being at that awkward stage where he wants to be big and do everything on his own, but then gets frustrated when, sometimes, he isn’t physically capable of actually accomplishing those things. I wanted in this story to tell him that it’s okay to still be growing. He’s just the size he should be, and maybe sometimes he needs to find his own way to do things.
The second story has to do with his anxiety when meeting new people, particularly ones that are loud and flamboyant. He’ll shrink into his mother or me and informs us that that other person is too scary. I thought I might start suggesting to him that sometimes people are loud or intimidating because they, themselves, are trying to hide their own fears or insecurities. Those that are the most scary are often those that are the most scared. This isn’t meant to discourage him from seeking safety when he is uncomfortable, but to help him broaden his perspective.
Clearly there are some concepts here that aren’t just for toddlers, either. There are times I would do well to better internalize the very lessons I am sharing with my son. I would like to explore that more in my post on Monday, how children’s stories can be written for all ages and, indeed, should be. See you then.