As new parents we anxiously anticipate each milestone in our child’s life – eating solid food, sitting up, first steps and of course their first words. The first words lead to better communication which is so exciting because you no longer have to guess what your child is trying to say. It’s wonderful and so cute! Their vocabulary starts to build. You start to get a glimpse of what is going on in that little head of theirs, something that has been a mystery up until now. Children are full of natural curiosity, which now builds along with their vocabulary. In the beginning they match the nouns with the object, ball. Then they expand to identifying colors, shapes and sounds that go along with the objects. It’s so cute, you tell your family. They are really smart! They start to ask questions and become even more inquisitive. Why is the sky blue? Why do birds fly and I can’t? Why are dogs different sizes? Why do I have to eat my carrots? Why do I have to brush my teeth? Why? Why? Why? Aaaaaaaaa, it’s a good thing they’re cute because all these questions start to wear you down.
Once the kids start school, the questions to the parents start to slow down. Now, they have a new source for endless answers, their teacher! They also have a group of friends who are eager to share their wisdom with someone. How I wish I could be a fly on the playground to hear the discussions the boys and girls have with each other. Around this age the parent also becomes the fact checker, verifying what was heard or said by another. Sometimes the parent has the opportunity to correct a statement that might be slightly off. Other times the parent is over-ruled as not knowing what is “true”. The questions start to get harder and we realize how lucky we are to have technology at our fingertips.
Another thing I’ve realized is that adults are really bad at asking questions - have you ever noticed that? It’s not only with our kids, but in our everyday lives. We are may be too busy to stop and ask questions beyond the answers we need for the issues at hand. Or somewhere along the line we developed this feeling that we were prying, so we hold back on all those questions that run through our brains for fear that we might offend someone. “How was your day?” is the standard question for many parents and kids when they are reunited at the end of the day, which then generates the standard responses. As a parent, I truly do want to know how their day was, but the question is almost too generic for the child. You can try more creative phrasing of questions, there are new articles shared on facebook weekly that try to help get beyond the basics, but you still risk a one word answer, possibly followed by an eye roll. The end of the day is hard. Even though we want to have a great conversation, often we’re both too tired and pushing too hard with too many questions results in the exact opposite of what we wanted.
What’s a parent to do? Last week a friend shared with me a wonderful idea called “The Key Jar” which is the brain child of fellow mom blogger Glennon Doyle Melton and her cousin Erin. They came up with 48 questions to be used with kids at the dinner table (or in the car, or wherever). I was excited to try The Key Jar. My son helped me to decorate the jar and cut up the questions. When we sat down for dinner, I explained what we were doing and why. The kids were excited to pick a question. The first question my son picked was “If you could switch places with one friend for a day, who would it be?” Interestingly, they both picked children in their class who were the complete opposite of them as they wanted to see what it was like to be so quiet for the day or so silly. The second question we picked was “What’s something that is hard for you?” This one took a little more thought to come up with, but the answers were interesting. We answered the questions as well, so that they knew there were things that were hard for mom and dad too. It was a great conversation and all of us are excited to do it again this weekend.
It’s easy to stop asking questions because you’re too busy, too tired or too wrapped up in your own “stuff”. Starting today, don’t miss out on the opportunity to have a true conversation with the people around you, including your little ones. Ask a question, see where it takes you and maybe you’ll learn something new.
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.