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The truth be told

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WHAT: The Truth About Daughters

WHERE: Our Lady of the Mountain Community Centre

WHEN: Friday, March 30

From football to politics to daughters, Nils Ling’s upbeat commentaries on life have been sending laugh waves across the country for nearly two decades.

Ling’s career began to take off in 1984 after writing a book about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who just happened to win the Grey Cup that year. As a result, Ling was interviewed many times on the radio, particularly in the Winnipeg area. A private station had the foresight to hire Ling as a sports commentator.

"Sports has always been like the toy department to me," says Ling. "I didn’t take it very seriously and made a lot of jokes about it and people just seemed to respond to it really well."

Producers decided to put Ling’s political science background to work in political commentaries but quickly realized listeners were more interested in Ling’s outlook on his growing family.

"That was nearly 17 years ago, and I’m still doing it on CBC radio. When the time came to write The Truth About Daughters, I had a lot of resources to draw from."

Ling is starring in his one man play about a father’s perspective on raising two daughters. His gentle good humour and pointed observations about the opposite sex are bringing diverse crowds to the theatre.

"Quite often at the end of the play I’ll get this group of women coming up. You look at them and you can tell they’re all from the same gene pool. They look like those little stacking Russian dolls. And they’re usually dragging along this little elderly gentleman. They’ll say ‘this is our dad’. And he’ll stick out his hand and say ‘Oh, I could tell you a few stories!’ It’s one of my favourite parts about doing this. It’s kind of like a dad-date thing."

Ling was the stay-at-home caregiver in the family, often writing from his home office. This situation is responsible for Ling’s unique insight and has allowed him to put into words what so many fathers probably wish they could: the love, the worry, the frustration and the lessons learned by bringing a new life into the world.

One such lesson is the importance of giving children a voice at an early age. Ling is the founder of a program called Teach a Kid to Fish. There are no rods or reels. Instead Ling has developed a simple method for kids to use their creativity and to feel comfortable speaking in front of their peers.

"One of the things I love about story telling is just the ability to make up my own stories. But I would hear my own kids say, ‘I don’t know how to do that.’ And I began talking to my own kids about making up stories and I thought, maybe I have something here. So when I’d be asked to perform in classrooms I’d go in and do a story, but then I’d say ‘You know what, now I want you to tell me a story.’ I give them the background elements that they need. I then lead them through a progressive story where the first child tells a bit of the story and then the next kid picks it up and so on. And what I find with every school I go into is this wonderful, original story written by children. And it’s just because you’ve given them the tools they need and permission to use their imagination… We’re living in an age where we’re allowing the rest of the world to entertain our children."

The lives of Ling’s two daughters are now the source and inspiration of entertainment. From an early age, the girls knew their lives would be on show.

"They’ve never known any different. All they’ve ever known is they have a dad who works in radio and embarrasses them. They’ve grown endeared to that. They’ve also invented ways over the years to mitigate the effects of me going on the radio or telling stories about them. The agreement we’ve always had is that I only talk about one daughter, so they each have plausible deniability. They can each come back with ‘oh, he was talking about my sister’."

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