I cannot believe that there was a time when Puttachi did not understand stories. The days now are so filled with stories for every occasion that it makes my head go round. She demands stories during mealtime, bedtime.. and err.. even pottytime.
There is no dearth of stories in the world. But there is a major problem. She cannot bear songs and rhymes and stories in which something unpleasant happens to the characters. Humpty Dumpty, for example, makes her cry. Now tell me, what choice do I have? All our mythological tales and Panchatantra and Jataka and even fairy tales have stories of beings eating each other up or hurting or killing or mauling or lying or cheating - I had never realized how much violence there is in children's tales.
So I usually give her a sanitized version of everything. For example, the story of Three Little Pigs doesn't have the Big Bad Wolf falling into the boiling cauldron at the end. In my story, the wolf just gives up and runs away.
But how long can I shield her from harsh realities? I plunged into the story of the Ramayana - and there is enough killing and mutilating there for starters! After the first time I told her the entire story, the only thing she remembered in the end was, "Shoorpanakha is a bad Rakshasi and her nose and ears got cut off!"
But she doesn't care too much about the Ramayana. All she wants are "Pooh" stories. Which means that I have to make up stories with Pooh as the central character. This works for both of us. I can insert little suggestions into the stories like "Pooh ate his food without any fuss, and that is why he is so strong" or "Pooh went to the dentist with toothache and the dentist told Pooh to brush twice a day like Puttachi - see how strong and clean her teeth are!"
So Pooh stories suit me, and that is the only way to get her undivided attention during mealtimes. But of course the problem with made up stories is that when you repeat the story, you unconsciously change some details, and the child catches you immediately, berating you for not remembering the story. And oh, it is lovely to hear her tell the story in her own words. She narrates it with expressions in her face and voice, employing a sad face and voice for "Ayyooo my ball fell into the lake" and a happy face and voice for "Yay! Thank you, crocodile, for getting my ball back from the lake!"
The other category of stories she likes are "Stories of Puttachi when she was a baby." My baby has grown so much that I am already telling her stories of her babyhood!