Friday, September 18, 2015

The After-School "Good"

You've all heard it before.

After a slow move through the car line while adjusting the radio station to meet my two-year-old's needs, I spot him. He's sandwiched between buddies, but isn't talking to them. He has found his mama. We lock eyes, he jumps to his feet, and his arm stretches up. Another successful day of education is shining on his face, and my own smile broadens as the teacher walks him over. He scrambles past his sister, buckles up, and I offer a cheerful "Hi Nathan! How was your day?"

"It was good."

How was recess?

How was today's chicken patty on bun?

How was music class?

How did you do on your spelling test?

It's a bit anticlimactic, isn't it? This is coming from the kid who can talk about Minecraft for half an hour with no pause for breath. However, hidden among the lukewarm responses my kid utters at 3:15 every weekday afternoon are third-grade tales waiting to be told. As soon as I start asking the right questions {sometimes days later}, I'll learn about things like multiplication tables and the fact that our public school system is still teaching cursive. Owen's preschool answers are similar. Eventually I'll get him to admit that he doesn't mind finger paint or that egg starts with E. All of this learning and growing happens on days that are simply "good." While I don't hold any secret keys to get your kid to talk to you, these questions can get me a step further:
  1. What was the funniest thing that happened at school today? This usually gets me playground antics or the unfortunate event that was Nathan stepping in a pile of ants while lining up after lunch.

  2. Who was your favorite person to play with today? This can provide a peek into friendships I know nothing about.

  3. What was the hardest thing you did today? This is when I find out what a math array is and that Nathan aced his comprehension test. This can also lead to stories about skinned knees and forgotten homework.

  4. What stories did you hear today? Both boys are read to {or get time to read} daily, and I am honestly interested. This usually gets me much more than a book title and for Owen, I may get a song and dance, too.
These are just a handful of alternatives to "How was your day?" to break through the after-school good. Even the open-ended questions can get shut down, but that's okay. Eight hours of focused attention can wear a kid down, and a brain break can be good. I've learned to try again over dinner, or even just wait for him to come to me. It's so nice to get a peek into the secret world of a third-grader, though. School is an experience of their own, but a sparked curiosity is natural. What car line questions do you have in your arsenal?

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Unknown said...

I've been getting "fine" from L since she started preschool. She doesn't like to directly answer my questions, but she will tell me things, little by little, in just random conversation. It's like she has to decide what she wants to tell me and when. In other words, she's her mother's daughter.

Jessica Bauer said...

Ha! I thought the same thing when I was typing this, Adrienne. I can easily get in a place where "good" is the only answer I'm able to give. It's just hard to not have a window into what's going on with them during the day. I suppose that's a good thing, though.

Unknown said...

I ask Bug every day what he learned at school. He always says "nothing". And then over dinner we get a fully animated recap of the entire day. It's hilarious.