I don’t know about you, but trying to get any info out of my kids about their days is nigh on impossible. Every afternoon, for years, went like this:
Me: How was your day?
Kids: Good/all right/fine.
Me: What did you do?
Kids: Nothing/I don’t remember/dunno.
I gave up those head-against-a-brick-wall interactions a couple of years ago, but I still wanted to know about their days, so I took to exploring other techniques.
Good thing the internet abounds with ideas of how to get your kids to open up. But I tried a whole bunch with pretty much zero success. Asking them more specific questions like “who was kind to you today?” or “what activities did you do at lunchtime” fielded pretty similar answers to “how was your day?”
And they started to avoid me after school. (Sure, that could be seen as a positive but this parenting gig apparently requires interaction at some point.)
I was all set to give up and just accept that I’d never know what my kids did today, or any other day, when I decided to try something different.
I told them about my day.
It had never occurred to me that maybe they wondered what on earth I was doing all day while they were at school. Or that what I might consider mundane or unremarkable was to them mysterious and fascinating.
So over dinner one night I recounted my day at work. I told my kids about how I finished writing a story about convicts for school kids and then had to rewrite the entire final chapter because my editor didn’t like it. Then I had a phone interview with a woman I was writing an article about, who had given her daughter a kidney. After that I had a lunch meeting with a glamorous colleague who just went straight to ordering dessert instead of having a regular lunch (lots of oohs and ahhs at that!). Then my afternoon was spent chasing invoices and sending new ones – something I find incredibly dull but my children were fascinated by what they perceived to be enormous amounts of money flying about the place.
And then, without my prompting, the most extraordinary thing happened. My son piped up and shared some highlights of his day. He’d been to the library to swap Pokemon cards with some kids who don’t know Pokemon that well, so he was able to swindle a good deal. He was left out of a handball game with his friends, which hurt his feelings, but they all played soccer together after school, so everything was fine by then.
My older daughter was suddenly desperate to share that she had a German test which didn’t go as well as she’d hoped, and we talked about what she might be able to do to ensure she does better next time. And she shared some friendship tensions that are happening in her group of tween friends.
Not to miss out on the action, my younger kindy-aged daughter shared that she had made green playdough, danced to Frozen songs, and lay down for a nap and pretended to sleep but didn’t actually sleep because day naps are for babies.
Once the dam had burst, there was no stopping all of this information from flowing all over the place! And so now, over dinner, I tell my children about my day, no matter how mundane it might appear to me. (Although I do just play the highlight reel – nobody needs a parent droning on about each individual photocopy they made.) And most days, the children share information about their days. Sometimes one will share more than the others, but mostly I hear from each of them.
It’s delightful, and those days of “dunno” are a distant memory. And as a bonus, the children have a better idea of who I am, and they’re starting to understand that I am a well-rounded human – not just Mum.