Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Long ago, before my children were actual human beings, I envisaged afternoons of collecting my imaginary kids from school, escorting them home amidst unsolicited chatter spilling effortlessly from their lips, leaving me to wade deliciously in a puddle of their thoughts. Years passed and my kids have materialized with personalities that are in no way influenced by my earlier visions. My real kids do NOT want to talk about school. In fact, there are very few subjects in which they are particularly verbose. For a while, I was a bit frustrated with this drought of loquaciousness. I tried not to take it personally, but I NEEDED to know what was happening to them between 9 am and 3pm. Unaware of anyone in the entire universe who is even remotely grappling with this issue (not that I know anyone outside of the universe, but it sounds more dramatic when I say universe), I was feeling a little isolated and NOT NORMAL. My darker side was tempted to drive around in narrow circles until they either threw up the details of their day, or the contents of their lunch.

I knew there was a sane solution that didn't involve vomit.

In the midst of this particular mothering dilemma, I was reading a possibly unrelated passage about contextual simplification and how the complexity of our thought processes can stifle our creativity and isolate and smother us. We find ourselves in biased ruts, reprocessing the same information, trying to find the same answers to the same problems, unwilling to view the world in any other way, round and round, until we end up making ourselves dizzy, back where we started, choking down our own self-composed theories about how things are and should be.

As convoluted as that last paragraph was, I interpreted it as this: There was a simple solution. I just needed to stop pounding on the door of pre-parental fairy tales and find an open door. I was making this too hard.

As soon as I released myself, I had the answer.


We have successfully instituted a family tradition which has broken the sound of silence. As they pile into the car, I casually ask them about their day, but don't prod them for details.

Until dinner.

After I serve them their five course meal (you know I'm kidding, right?), they must, in turn, serve us 5 details about something that they did or learned that day at school. The first night that I crashed their world, it was a laborious process, extracting each and every one of those five one word morsels. It went kinda like this:

Emmy: "1. Math 2. Spelling "


Me: "Emmy that is only 2. We need five"


Emmy: " 3. Recess 4. Science "


Me: "One more, Please."


Emmy : "5. Ummmm. Ummmm. Ummmm. Library."


Me: "Ok, Savanna. You're next."


Fast forward 10 weeks and they are prompting us to ask them about their day, using full sentences, and interrupting each other with their individual tidbits, dramas, gossip, and upcoming classroom events. That's right. INTERRUPTING each other. It is a dream come true.

I was a little concerned this year when Savanna was assigned a teacher who jokes around and doesn't give homework. His method of teaching has proven to be a gift. The great wall that existed between Savanna's education and her life is coming down. She was even on the verge of brimming with excitement the other night while showing me the order of equations. Mr. B must be doing something right. My theory is that he treats them like adults and 6th graders are eager to be adults and relish in the respect. Whatever.

Emmy received perfect scores on the Washington State Aptitude Tests last spring and has been attending a more challenging school once a week. She joined the running club, ran 3 times a week, adding an extra hour to her day. She bought a small package of 8 chocolates and savored them for 2 weeks(I know that has nothing to do with school, but I just can't get over it). Her biggest struggle this year has been her assignment to memorize and then recite poems to the class. Emmy has a tendency of putting her hand in front of her mouth while talking, thus causing what little she says to be completely inaudible. The first week, I insisted that she practice her poem at home. My abhorrent torturous request resulted in an Edgar Allen Poe'ish night of dreary sobbing. It was a battle of little importance and I blew it way out of proportion. If only there was an order of equations for parenting.

Ansel, still enthralled with the wonders of Kindergarten, is currently an exception and will usually spill all of his educational beans. The problem is... his beans are a little mixed up. One day he announced that his class was going to take the Swine Flu test. Another day he told me that his substitute teacher's name was Ms. Killer. Turns out it was Ms. Hunter. If I am not the parent teacher during class to witness the beans first hand, I have to take his beans with a little grain of salt. I'm not always 100% sure of what Ansel actually did at school, but I do know that he is 100% excited about learning to read. His teacher may be giving them the Swine Flu test. I don't care. I am just happy that he is happy about words.

In Conclusion, I have been reminded that parenting, more often than not, isn't about me changing my children. It is usually about me changing me.


Sijbrich said...

Are you reading college level philosophy books in your spare time or what?

Nice post.

melissa said...

I can't believe you actually received a solution from those words. You are the genius I always knew.

On another note, your kids are beautiful and you are the perfect mom. I can't seem to do anything for five weeks let alone more than a day. I guess that is how you get results.

Reading your blog is a kick in the pants or highly inspirational.... which ever way you want to look at it.

Keep up the great work. I do love reading this blog.

amy said...

Loved this post. You have inspired me to try it with my girls. I think we'll start with them telling us 3 things :) And my challenge will be getting Jade to stay seated while she tells me, rather than getting up from the table and showing me.

Love you and love reading your blog.

Kaerlig said...

I find myself having to read and reread your posts. You obviously didn't trade in for the "mommy brain" when you had kids like I did.

I did try to ask my kids at dinner to name one nice thing they had done for someone else that day. After three "nothing"s for 2 or 3 days I stopped asking. Now I know it takes 10 weeks to get results. I should start again.

Elisa said...

Love your idea, I'm going to try it. Ditto on not trading in your brain for a "mommy brain" - you are so talented! I'm curious if the Mr. B you're talking about is the Mr. B I know.