Everywhere I turn I hear my fellow parents complaining about
how they can't get any information out of their kids. They can't figure out how their preschool
days are going, and it's hard to get them to cough up simple facts like what they
had for lunch.
We talk about it during
the morning school dropoff, we talk about it during the after school pick-up
and it's all over my news feeds. Online articles even have lists of
questions you are supposed to ask, and guides on how to be more specific turn friendly after-school conversations into mini interrogations.
Even though my little man will talk your
face off when you first meet him, I've had trouble getting any information out
of him about preschool, especially after switching roles with my husband; I'm
now working the full-time job and he's at home with Aleck.
All it took was one addition to our daily routine.
Since the work transition, I'm no longer doing the drives to and
from school, I don't spend the afternoons with him playing with his marbles and
reading books, and we're not running errands anymore, which was my favorite
activity to do together. He thinks the
produce section at the grocery store is akin to the coolest children's museum
After spending the first four years of his life seeing him almost every day, I felt incredibly disconnected.
So I've had to rework my schedule,
like any parent making this transition, and build quality time into our everyday
routine. For instance, I wake up hours before I have to leave for work, adding 10 minutes of
morning cuddles into every single morning, and leave plenty of time for extra
goodbye hugs before I leave.
But after a
few weeks I felt that even though we were spending this time together, I knew
absolutely nothing about his day-to-day life; and after spending the first four years of his life seeing him almost every day, I felt incredibly disconnected.
And then I discovered something incredible during our
morning cuddles. One day I did a voice
of his favorite lovey, his parrot, and this became a huge part of our
routine. Jabber the parrot would repeat
everything Aleck had to say and Aleck would just laugh. Then Aleck started to tell Jabber things,
speak to him as if they were equals, telling him stuff like how he was feeling
that morning, if he wanted to go to preschool, and how he gets lonely when he
wakes up from a nightmare.
I started to
melt, but I had to stay in character, and now I've developed a whole cast of
characters for him to pour his heart out to. At some point he might figure out that Jabber and I are truly one and
the same, but until then I'm going to get all I can from this bonus in our daily
The other trick I use is if he wants to do something, like
before he plays on his iPad or when he's on the potty and he thinks he's ready to
get off (though he's usually still pooping) I make him tell me three things
about his day at preschool before he can get what he wants. We do this every night before bed when he's
emptying his little bladder for the very last time, and it's working like a
charm. Sometimes he anticipates what I'm
going to say and tries to answer me quickly so he can move on, but usually he
starts to tell me one detail and it leads to a whole anecdote about his
days. I love it.
Keeping it to just three questions works a
lot better than the barrage of questions I constantly see in other posts. Aleck learned really quickly how to turn a
long list of questions into a game where he answers each one with "I don't
know" and then crack himself up, while watching my face contort with a
combination of frustration and amusement. He's a smart one.
Most of these kids are smart; they don't want to
just answer questions about their day. They want to play, they want to laugh, they want to watch TV—and if
you're lucky they want to cuddle. Figuring
out what makes your little one tick, what gets them excited and how to work
these moments of connection into your everyday schedule is the best way to get
to know them, to know how their days are going and to know how they are
Before I started these tricks I
felt like I was there with him physically each morning and evening, but I no longer
knew what he was thinking or feeling about his days. Now, when I tuck myself in at night, trying
to figure out how to talk to my son is one of the few things I'm not worrying