We push through the door and she’s off. She loves to run. So she bounds around the corner and hops up the steps. Unsurprisingly, I don’t have quite that much energy reserved for the last few miles of my day, so I trail behind.
I catch up with her at the parking lot and finally have a chance to ask.
“How was your day?”
Her typical, ambivalent, “Good.” escapes as she works to catch her breath. And that’s it. Most days, nothing more comes out unprompted.
And I’ve tried all of the versions of, “Well, what did you do today?” But we all know those don’t work. That sort of open-ended question isn’t going to lead us anywhere. And it makes sense, how would you answer such a question?
So over the past couple of years, I’ve developed a few tricks to getting her to spill.
Remember the Schedule
I now know that on most Mondays and Wednesdays, she goes to Spanish. Most Tuesdays, it’s art. And every Friday she sees John Henry and gets to dance. Sometimes just simply asking, “How was Spanish class?” get’s the conversation flowing as easy as uno, dos, tres.
Create the space
You know how in the evening, just after you close the door, tuck-ins complete, your little one will sometimes come strolling right back out, asking what seems like the most random of questions? I’ve come to realize that once my girl’s head rests, her mind settles, and all of the curiosities and questions and observations of her day are bubbling to the top. Try to create this quiet space on your ride home. Sometimes your little one will just start talking and offering up nuggets you never dreamed of asking about.
Sneak a peek
When I pick up my girl from extended day, I often try to wander down to Kate’s classroom and sneak a peek at her chalkboard. Sometimes the day’s message is still written up there, providing a tiny but usually quite meaningful window into a part of the day and giving me material to work with. And musing in the car that, “You know, today I was thinking about bell towers.” doesn’t seem odd to her but rather elicits shouts of, “We talked about bell towers at school today!”
Read the Notes
On weeks when my sneaky spy tactics have failed me, I’ll rely heavily on the weekly class notes. Even a few days after the fact, mentioning how much I love Roman numerals will at least get a bit of chatter going and can at least get us in a chatty mood. Paying particular attention to larger units of study has also significantly opened up conversation during other times of the day. We now can’t go to our favorite pizza restaurant without noticing how the coloring sheets conveniently represent three key areas of Italy she’s been learning about.
Ask about friends
I’ll be honest, I don’t always want to talk about the work I did all day. More often I’d rather talk about the funny thing a colleague said during a meeting or the sweet email I got from a friend. So ask your child about their friends. What did they play today? How is her friend feeling? You’ll probably get a few little stories and also demonstrate the importance of friendship.