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From Fantastic Mr. Fox and Matilda to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl is known for his many whimsical stories. A number of his books have even been turned into Broadway shows and beautiful films, like Disney’s The BFG. If we’ve learned anything from reading his works, it’s that he’s never failed to captivate an audience — including his own kids. Babble had the chance to talk to his daughter Lucy Dahl and hear all about growing up with such an imaginative dad.
While most of us are used to being begged to read “just one more” bedtime story every night, growing up Lucy had the privilege of being told magical tales right off the cuff from her father. However, it never crossed her mind that being the original audience of Dahl’s stories made her special. She tells Babble:
“We were brought up to be very humble in every single way … we were taught that everybody hates a show off. I don’t think I’m lucky or different than anybody else because that was my dad. I’m sure your dad has special things about him that nobody else has.”
Are you smiling yet? Because we certainly are. Lucy goes on to reveal insights into her relationship with her dad. Her favorite memory was when he would surprise her and her sisters by picking them up from school:
“We would be in single-file walking to the bus like the Madeline girls and my dad would be standing there near where we would get on the bus. We would get to peel off and jump in his old bang-up car … and we would sing songs and stop and get ice cream, always. We would make up songs.”
As if this doesn’t already sound like the best car ride home from school ever, Lucy even gave us a soundbite of the kinds of songs they would make up, singing, “Ophelia and Lucy went in the car, what did they see so far? They saw lots of piggy wiggy wiggy wigs!”
She went on to share that her father played a much bigger role in her childhood than just making up incredible bedtime stories. “He understood the reality of how difficult it could be to be a child,” she tells Babble. She notes that he helped her learn her times tables by putting them to song.
“You repeat and repeat your times tables, so everything went into song and we learned like that. We learned through play and happy times rather than being shut up in our room and our brains being hammered into shame if we couldn’t figure it out.”
We’ll definitely be taking a page from Dahl’s parenting book the next time we’re trying to help our kids memorize facts that, admittedly, even go over our heads. Lucy feels the same, telling us, “Everything he did I try to pass on to my own children. From surprises to fun foods to lessons.”
However, she recalls one hysterical parenting lesson she’s refrained from using on her own two daughters, saying:
“Whenever I would do something wrong, he was called into the headmistress’ office to come to get me. On the way home he would say to me, ‘You know, I’m very disappointed in you … but I’m not disappointed that you did what you did because that’s normal for children to be naughty. What really makes me disappointed is that you were stupid enough to get caught.'”
Ha! He certainly did have a great sense of humor. Lucy reveals that she did tell her kids about the story, but that she didn’t teach them the moral of “do what you want as long as you don’t get caught.” Dahl also brought his whimsical personality to the dinner table. Lucy, who admits she uses his techniques to get her own kids to eat, recalls:
“Everything had something special about it. He would tell us red cabbage was only grown in Buckingham Palace and it was delivered by a footman sent from the Queen. Brussel sprouts, for example, would be flown in on the back of a bird and dropped into the garden.”
At this point, it’s very clear that Roald Dahl was a devoted, loving father who had a very special relationship with his children. Lucy got a bit emotional when we asked her what the best advice her father ever gave her was, telling us:
“He was in the hospital, I didn’t know he was going to die the next day and he did. I had two young children and I had to get back to breastfeed my new baby, she was about two weeks old. I said goodbye and I had my handle on the door and I said ‘See you tomorrow.’ He replied, ‘Lucy, I want you to take care of your children.’ Now I take care of them like he took care of us.”
As if we weren’t already getting teary-eyed, Lucy reveals that if she could say one more thing to her father it would be, “Thank you,” which, at the end of the day, is what all parents want to hear from their children.
Luckily for Lucy and her family, her father continues to live on through his stories. Roald Dahl’s tales are enjoyed by kids all over the world, but we’ll never forget that they started at home with his own daughters, which is truly an incredible thing.
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