She relaxed after a full day of kindergarten while I scavenged through her backpack with glee; my favorite part of the day was upon us. Getting to rifle through her backpack is enough to send me into fits of euphoria. It’s the small glimpses of her day that are seeing me through this kindergarten transition.
Because goodness knows, she doesn’t want to actually TELL me about her day.
In the beginning, I used every trick in the book.
There’s this one: never ask a yes or no question. But my specifically designed, open-ended questions like “What did you think about art class today?” or “Who did you play with at recess?” were only met with minimal enthusiasm. Which means that she said either “I don’t know,” or “I don’t remember.” And I was left crying in the corner, missing vital details from my daughter’s day.
Then, I asked for help from friends who had some promising suggestions. I tried them right away.
“You know, today I felt really proud of myself when I finally found that book I’d been missing. What made YOU feel proud today?” And I switched it up with feeling nervous, excited, silly, worried, etc. The first day, this went well. We talked! She answered! I had to explain what a few emotions, but it counted as conversation and led to other discussions. But by day two, my secret trick was old news. Again I heard the dreaded “I don’t know.”
Next, I tried cornering her. Away from other distractions, maybe she’d be overcome with a desire to spill her kindergarten feelings. In the car, I asked about her day. She started talking, I think, but the combination of distance between us plus her little sister’s own storytelling canceled out her voice. I couldn’t politely shush one daughter in favor of the other, especially since I’m hoping the little one will continue to talk my ear off well into the future.
It seemed hopeless. The more I questioned her and encouraged conversation, the more she backed away. She got frustrated and refused to talk at all if I became too pushy. It felt like interrogation: me against her.
Although dinnertime would have seemed obvious for keeping our conversations lively, I was too bummed to continue. Instead, I sat idly, staring at my daughters and their speedily growing selves. They might as well be driving off to college as sitting in booster seats around the family table. Time was my greedy enemy.
Then, suddenly: “Hey, today at recess, I got to the second monkey-bar!”
I raised my eyebrows.
“And did you know that Washington is on the quarter? And Roosevelt is on the dime? I’ll show you. And today was A-day – that’s Art day – and the artist-teacher was really nice. I’m going to be an artist when I grow up. Hey, when is the next time I get to bring a snack? Today, we had little cheese crackers, but…I don’t like cheese. So I didn’t have any.”
And on she went.
Turns out, as soon as I gave her some space – which felt an awful lot like giving in to despair – she felt like talking. All I had to do was hang on for the ride and maintain the look of encouragement in my eyes.
Which was just about the easiest thing I’ve ever done. It was holding back the tears of relief that was a bit more difficult.
So how do YOU try to wheedle conversation from your child? And how often do your approaches work? And will this not knowing what they're up to every moment of every day EVER become easier?!