Fortunately, Unfortunately {or} Maybe So, Maybe Not – the power of stories and games

maybe-so-maybe-notWe own this cute little book called Fortunately that has been the starting point for hours of entertainment in the car.

The gist of the story is that something fortunate happens to Ned, and then something unfortunate  happens as a result of the good thing – and back and forth it volleys until the story ends. The boys have the story memorized and we have adopted the premise of the book as a fun game while traveling.

One of us will start with something such as; “Fortunately we are going to the zoo today.” And, working around the car, will follow with an every other sequence of fortunately and unfortunately events. You never know what is coming, but it might be something like this;
“Unfortunately it started to rain.”
“Fortunately everyone brought an umbrella.”
“Unfortunately Wesley got hungry and took a bite out of an umbrella.”
“Fortunately Judah’s a super hero who can fix umbrella’s with his super power.”

… most stories end up with Wesley eating and Judah being a super hero. But their flow of logic has grown immensely through this game, as has their concept of cause and effect and their imaginations. {And we have had a lot of laughs through this!}

It has also diffused many bored, restless moments from escalating into bad tempers. {As an aside, I have found that improv exercises are excellent methods for dealing with groups of restless children. The exercises are entertaining to watch on Youtube and are easily adaptable into large or small groups.}

More recently I read a Chinese Proverb that is a story called Maybe So, Maybe Not. It goes like this;

One day, a farmer’s horse ran away. His neighbors expressed sympathy, “What terrible luck that you lost your horse!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not.”


A few days later, the horse returned, leading several wild horses. The neighbors said, “Your horse has returned, and brought more with him. What great fortune!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not.”


Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the wild horses and got thrown to the ground, breaking his leg. The villagers cried, “Your son broke his leg, what a calamity!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not.”


A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, conscripting all the able-bodied young men for the army. They did not take the farmer’s son because of his broken leg. Neighbours shouted, “Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” To which the farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not.”

I told that story to the boys as a means of opening up a dialogue about perception, opportunities, responses and self control, and then retold them that story with their names and events familiar to their daily life … and without ever meaning for it to happen, the Maybe So, Maybe Not story took on a life of its own just as our Fortunately/Unfortunately story has.
Only this Maybe So, Maybe Not story has encouraged them to view situations a bit more deeply.

The other day I stopped for one last errand and the boys groaned loudly. I looked at them and simply said; “Mommy needed to stop at the store and Judah said to Wesley; ‘This is awful. What a terrible thing to happen to us.’ And Wesley said; ‘Maybe so, maybe not.'”
They giggled and brightened up. We went in the store, got what I needed plus a little treat for ourselves. When we got back in the car a continuation of my silly little Maybe so, Maybe not story developed and a conversation about our attitude towards various circumstances in life.

Games and stories are powerful tools to use for teaching life lessons and correct attitudes, and these two have proven very useful tools in our home as we try to cultivate children that can empathize beyond their experiences and handle themselves with self control.

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