Introducing Albert the Fox to families in need of connection and routine!

I’m excited today to have Erik Bennett with us today. He fits so well with one of Live Uncaged’s high values of leading a family uncaged.. He’s the Lead Ministry Strategist for LegendLabs.org. Find him on Twitter here: @erik_bennett. He blogs at theflipflopgospel.com. He is passionate about creating awesome bedtime rituals with his family. So he (and his family) came up with Albert the Fox. Here’s Albert, meet him:

The site where you can meet Albert more up close and personal is Albertthefox.com.  And the tagline for the site is, “Building Bonds at Bedtime.” Let’s hear from Erik and the interesting story of how Albert was born.

Tell us how the idea for Albert came about:

My wife, prior to my full time ministry deal, was an elementary teacher. She loved to teach children how to read. Because of that love we have a lot of children’s books in our house. It’s pretty much a library for elementary kids. Our children have greatly benefited. Bedtime in our home became a nightly routine of taking turns reading to our kids. However, I am the creative type so the monotony of reading the same book requested over and over by my children led me to begin creating stories.

One night, when my daughter was about five I began to make up a story with this beginning, “once upon a time there was a little fox named….”. I paused then asked her, “What should his name be?” She said, “Albert.” Then I continued the story saying, “…there was a little fox named Albert who had three black paws and one white paw.”

She said, “why one white paw?”

I said, “why not?” I guess I wanted Albert to have something about him that was different. Also, I wanted my daughter to know that different in how we look is okay. Its how God made us. I spent 15 years in Student Ministry so helping my daughter have a healthy view of how God sees her was/is really important to me and I’m sure that bled into the process of the white paw. And some of that story line played out early in the make believe process. I also didn’t describe Albert much out side of that. I wanted her imagination to render and not mine. That’s why Albert is a silhouette except his white paw which is actually a thought cloud icon.

During that first story, we created new characters like Albert’s best friend, Walter, the big brown bear. And then we created a little brother. Since Miah had a little brother who was three, Albert had a younger brother name Prickles aptly named b/c of his whiskers. I ended the story with, “It was his best day ever”. After that story was over I left her room saying the usual, I love you and goodnight.

The next night we went through the normal routine of looking for a book to read before bedtime. I had all but forgotten about Albert the Fox until my daughter said these words, “Daddy. Can you tell me an Albert story?” That’s the night that Albert came to life. Albert was a game of story telling and imagination that transformed over time into a nightly object lesson of faith, family and friendship.

{Aside from Mary: I love this!}

Erik, why is it important to have routines at bedtime?

We are so busy as families. Work, school activities, homework, sports teams, music class, art class, dinner and then we all get this little breath around bedtime. The bedtime has become the only part of the day where children are still and quiet with nothing to distract them. It seems like it is one of the best times for conversation, and undivided attention. Its the perfect moment for reading and storytelling. This routine builds the desire for reading and creativity. Children like routines or at least later on in life they appreciate a consistent bedtime 🙂 It even helps them fall asleep each night which is great for parents of younger kids! My youngest doesn’t feel ready for bed until he has his Albert Story. That’s not a promo. That’s real life because sometimes its not easy to think up a new story which is why we started using their lives to continue to have a storyline for Albert.

Miah, my daughter, always heard about Albert’s loving side. He had deep friendships. Sometimes was a little shy. Cared little about how he was perceived as long as he was doing something that was good for others.

Josh, my middle son, always heard about Albert’s impetuous side. Albert seemed to get into adventurous situations where he suddenly needed to lead others to safety or rely on others to get out of danger.

David, my youngest who is four is the last round of Albert stories. We are still working on storyline but many of Albert’s directions revolve around interacting with family.

What other family rituals do you do to foster dependence on God?

Family devotions are a part of our week. Also, the consistency of prayer at dinner time. Its a simple thing but it continues the understanding of who God is and what he has given us. I ask a different kid each night to take a turn praying. Also, scripture memory and simply going to church together. Statistics are overwhelming at the impact attending church together has on children. As they get older we will be heading on mission trips both local and global. I can’t wait for those days.

{Aside: Missions has utterly transformed our family!}

What do you love most about the Albert books?

I love seeing if my kids are making the connection between Albert and their days events. I love how it helps us connect at night. In our house nothing is perfect. My daughter may have thrown some pre-teen attitude. My middle son may have tested the boundaries. My youngest may have snuck a girl scout cookie or two or maybe five (true story) and the whole house may be grounded. It’s part of parenting to be the bad guy and the good guy at the same time. Albert is a great conduit for making sure we all know we love each other. My two oldest (11 and 8) have outgrown Albert, but, they haven’t outgrown our time each night. I also love the fact that one day they will tell their kids an Albert Story. And in that moment they will think back and remember their Dad who loved them.

Thanks, Erik, for your heart and this beautiful story about Albert and how he came to be. Readers, please take a moment to explore the Albert site and strive to develop some great routines with your family. What is excessively cool about this is that Erik isn’t asking you to buy a bunch of Albert stuff. He’s encouraging you to create your own Albert stories with your kids. He gives parents tools how to do that, and he offers his own Albert stories for free on the site. Refreshing!

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