I had a problem many parents complain about. My children wouldn’t tell me anything. My cheery, caffeine-induced ‘How was school today?’ at the bus stop, every afternoon, was met either with an ‘Okay’, a diffident ‘same as yesterday’ or ‘hgthrlkjf’ which is grunt speak for ‘Okay’.
I’ve spent a lot of time wondering where the three-year-old who wanted to share his stream of consciousness musings as he sat on the potty had disappeared to? Where was the child who bored me with the minutiae of his doctoral thesis ‘Thomas Vs Gordon: Who is the better blue train?’ What of the children who would chatter at bedtime and then suddenly stop talking mid-sentence as they fell asleep?
In a bid to avoid learning grunt speak so that I could decipher what my kids were telling me, I started reading articles like ‘20 ways to ask your kids how their day was so that they tell you!’ I’m sure these articles work for other people but my kids didn’t want to answer ‘Tell me something funny that happened today’ or ‘Who did you sit next to at lunch?’ either. They most certainly didn’t want my offer of ‘You tell me about your day and I will tell you about mine.’ Mostly because, my recounting of laundry, dog walking, writing and more laundry sucks.
Their behaviour baffled me, as some of my fuzziest memories are of a daily ritual of sipping tea with my sister and mother and chatting about our day. Though perhaps I can’t blame my kids entirely because in ‘How was your day today?’ they hear ‘Do you have any homework? Did you submit your homework? How did you do in the test?’ They hear this because these are the questions that usually follow the first one.
With life as it is these days: work, longer hours at school, commute, classes, homework, designated screen time, it’s easy to find yourself talking less and less about the things that matter, and more and more about the things that don’t. Like laundry and homework.
So this past week, I decided we needed to start eating together. Now, this may sound strange to those of you who have sacrosanct family mealtimes. But over the years, we have found ourselves eating at different times of the day, thanks to differing schedules, hunger levels and convenience. Sometimes, it’s just easy to feed your kids while they do their homework. It’s easy but a terrible thing to do.
So we eat together. And without an Internet article, they opened their mouths not only to eat but to also talk. I heard about the session on cyber safety in school. About nice teachers and not-so-nice ones. About girls versus boys.
Yesterday we spoke about how we might find a cure for diseases using an extra-cellular matrix. My immediate image of my son thanking me as he won a Nobel for Medicine was burst as he explained that an extra-cellular matrix is something from The Flash. Oh well.
So simple. Break bread with your children. And stop talking about homework and classes. You may have to listen to the minutiae of their current thesis: ‘David Tennant vs Jodi Whittaker: Who is the better Doctor?’. Please. We all know it’s Jodi.
The writer’s philosophy is: if there’s no blood, don’t call me