You know when you hear an idea that forces you to evaluate what you do as a parent? Yeah, well I had one of those moments the other day.
During her few minutes on stage, Magda said we should all take the time to tell our children about our day. This struck me as an exceedingly obvious suggestion, yet something I’ve never really gone out of my way to do.
After all, in this day and age, we’re supposed to focus entirely on our kids aren’t we? Talking about ourselves as parents, well, that’s just not the done thing is it? Also, do our kids need or want to know about the washing, the cooking, the shopping and bureaucracy that are all a part of family life?
Let us, however, take a step back from this for just a moment. I, like many mums and dads, sometimes struggle to get my children to open and and tell me what’s going on in their lives.
It can be very tricky to encourage a child to tell you all about their day. Come on, we’ve all been there.
“What happened at school today?” says the parent.
“Nothing,” comes the reply from the child.
Sound’s familiar, right?
Well, on returning from #efluent5 I carried out an experiment. I collected Izzy, my four year old daughter, from preschool. To see if I could get her to talk, I borrowed a method used by Simon Ragoonanan, who writes the ManVsPink blog.
I didn’t ask my daughter about her day, I asked her to tell me three things about her day. It worked beautifully.
I found out she had played with her friend, also called Izzy. I found out she had played cats and dogs and that she’d had some pear and a bagel for a snack.
This was much more information than I usually get out of her. Only thing is, I wasn’t finished. Using Magda’s advice, I told her about my day.
This was very difficult because most of it had been spent dealing with the consequences of a broken computer hard drive. I was trying to find a data retrieval specialist who could get all the data off the drive, much of it priceless and impossible to replace (photographs, old tax documents etc.).
These are not easy concepts to talk about with a four-year-old and I’m sure you can imagine the levels of stress this has caused me. To my surprise, however, Izzy was fascinated.
She didn’t believe daddy’s story that his computer wasn’t working properly. She laughed and told me she was going to test the computer herself to see if I was telling the truth.
Sure, we speak all the time and have a good level of communication, but this was a level of engagement I never expected at the end of a tiring, cold November evening. I speak to my kids about all manner of subjects from current affairs to the countries I have travelled to etc. Cooking, cleaning, broken computer hard drives? I would simply have considered it too dull.
Then again, maybe my kids need to know about this dull stuff. Izzy was very interested by my hard drive problems and I guess I she appreciated having a little window into my world.
I’ve always said you need to be flexible as a parent and try out new ideas. Thank you Magda and thank you Simon, your simple advice has been very inspiring.