The funny thing about school-aged children is that they seem incapable of divulging anything that happens to them at school.
At first I thought it was just ‘my kid’. He’s just not super chatty, I thought to myself, when he continuously deflected the questions I asked to gain some insight into what he did for the six plus hours he was away from me.
‘How was school today?’
‘What did you do?’
‘I don’t really remember.’
‘Did you learn a Spanish word?’
‘I think so. I don’t really remember.’
‘Who did you sit with at recess?’
‘I didn’t know their name.’
‘Why didn’t you ask?’
Vague questions. Specific, pointed questions. It hasn’t seemed to matter.
My very favorite response – after I’ve asked too many questions – is a slightly irritated ‘I don’t know. I had a really busy day!’
It actually reminds me of a quote from an interview with Justin Halpern, who has become famous for writing down ‘stuff” his dad says: ‘If Kindergarten is busting your a*s, I got some bad news for you about the rest of your life.‘
If you think Grade one is ‘really busy’, kid, well I just don’t know.
So, in an effort to get some information from my close-lipped wunderkind, I’ve introduced a ‘thumbs’ system, which enables him to rate his day – nonverbally – when I pick him up from school. ‘So, thumbs up, thumbs sideways or thumbs down?’ I ask every day. And take it from there. I’ve also taken to showing up at school with a treat in my pocket – a brownie, a scone, or the promise of peach crisp waiting at home.
It’s as if I’m collecting my dog from obedience training.
I’m learning to limit my questions on the days that he seems worn out, and listen attentively on the days he seems eager to talk. And to make sure I learn something about his day, even if it’s right before he goes to sleep. I figure he’s only going to get less chatty as the years go by, so I need to put my communication system in place, now.
I picked him up on Thursday. He ran towards me carrying a plastic Safeway bag intended to shield the rest of the world from the sticky-with-syrup plate, fork and knife he’d left at school the previous day. Following their ‘welcome back’ pancake breakfast.
‘Hey, you remembered to bring your plate back,’ I said. Perhaps a little too thrilled that he’d actually remembered to bring it home after our ‘reminder’ conversation in the kitchen that morning.
‘It was in the Lost and Found,’ he confessed.
‘Well, it’s good you got it back! So…..thumbs up, thumbs sideways, thumbs down?’ I asked as we walked through the wet field back to the car-van where his brothers were waiting. (I’m pretty sure he’s going to get annoyed with the ‘thumbs’ bit within a week.)
‘It was thumbs up, I think.’
‘Yeah? What was good about it?’
‘I felt happy that I could color slowly on my foot (paper foot?). So that was good. Maybe sometime when you come to school with me, I can show it to you. So, what did you and Henners and Percy do while I was gone today?’
‘We went to a friend’s house, and then we came home, and we ate lunch and Percy napped, and then I tried to take a nap, and then Henners and I read books and then we came and got you.’
‘Sounds like you had a busy day. Why were you trying to take a nap?’
[Because you and your brothers kept me up all night. Because you slept in my bed most of the night and your younger brother joined us at 6. And then I had to go sleep in your bed because I didn’t have any covers, and I feel claustrophobic when I have to sleep in between two little people.]
‘What else did you do today?’
‘I worked on my yellow folder…and we worked on black’.
‘What do you mean you worked on black?’
‘The color….black, black what is black, a bat is black and scary as that……actually, it was brown.’
[Huh? Why would you say you worked on black…if you worked on brown?]
‘Is there a poem for brown, too?’
‘Brown, brown, what is brown, a bear is brown……I don’t remember the end. It looks like I remembered lots of things today!’
‘Yeah, it’s like your brain decided to go to school today with you!’
‘Does your brain talk to you sometimes? I think i have lots of people in my brain….one person says ‘I don’t want to be your friend’ and the other says ‘I want to be your friend.’
[Mmh, should I be worried about this?]
Sometimes one person says ‘I don’t like you’ and the other person says ‘I like you’.’
‘Well, that’s how it goes, right? Sometimes you like Henners and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you like me, and sometimes you don’t.’
‘I like you most of the time, I think.’