Kids change everything. You hear people tell you that when you’re single. They say it again to you when you get engaged. They reiterate it once you’re married but have no children. When you’re pregnant, they say it over and over and over to you, just in case you weren’t really sure about how your life is about to change. Truth be told, it’s annoying at times in any stage you are going through in life. With that being said, though, the saying is true. Kids change everything. They change your sleeping patterns, your grocery shopping lists, your social life, and even your intimacy and bathroom patterns! How many of us have been in the bathroom with little fingers sliding under the door and a small voice saying, “Momma…are you in there?”
I went back to work this year after being a stay-at-home mom for six years. It has been a big, and difficult at times, change in my own, and my family’s, life. We’ve had to become more intentional about the time we spend together and how we communicate. I realized right after I went to work that communication was a bit harder than it had been in the past. When I was home, I was a big part of everything that took place in my three boys’ days. Once they started going to school, and then I started teaching again, it was very different. I didn’t know half of what they did during their day. I would ask the typical, “How was your day” question when I picked them up, but I would get the typical answer, “Fine.” Or better yet, I would get “I got a green” or “I got a three”, depending on how their behavior went at school. It started to drive me crazy, and make me feel more and more secluded from them. I would shudder when I really sat down and thought, “So this is how it’s going to be now that I am working again…” Then one day I realized, No. It doesn’t have to be. It can be different, and it will be different.
My husband and I worked with 18-25 year olds at our church in Phoenix. We adored it. There was rarely a day that our house didn’t have some of our “young” friends in it. We learned quickly to ask specific and intentional questions with them or we would be answered with the polite, one-word answers we all use at some point. As I thought about my boys, I realized I was making it easy on them to give me one-word answers. It was up to me, as their momma, to make it impossible for them to do that. So, I came up with some quick, easy ways to make them talk.
The first thing we did was create a family dinner game. It has now become something at our house that our boys won’t let us NOT do. Even when we have guests around our table, our boys say, “Are we going to teach them our dinner tradition?” I love that they love it, and it always gets conversation flowing. The best part? It’s easy. What do we do? We go around the table and each person tells their favorite part of their day. That’s it. From what they say, we are able to ask questions and dig a little deeper. I have learned so much about just what makes my three boys tick, and they are all so different!
Second, when I pick the boys up from school, I still ask them how was their day. And, I still get the proverbial “fine” or “I got a green today” answer. I’m not going to lie. More than once I’ve wanted to let the conversation be done there because I’m tired or trying to figure out dinner…or how fast I can get to bedtime! But, I decided to become intentional with my children, so I have to put that aside for a little bit. I ask a few pointed questions instead. “What special area did you go to today at school?” “What did you do in _____ (art, music, gym) today?” “Tell me one thing you learned today that you didn’t know before.” That’s it. Those are my three questions. From there, the conversation grows and grows. After a little while of asking these three questions intentionally each day, it became where I didn’t even have to start the conversations that often. I was quickly greeted in the car with, “Momma, did you know that water can turn into ice and gas as well as what we drink?” “Momma, can we get a book on constellations? We started learning about stars today at school.” Amazing!
We all have those friends who we go to dinner with and leave feeling completely fed emotionally. They ask really good questions and you believe they want to know you on a deeper level? They are few and far between in most people’s lives, but when you find them, they are good for your soul. I want to be that in my friendships, but, more than that, I want to be that in my childrens’ lives. I want them to know that, no matter what, I think they are amazing human beings who deserve my intentional desire to really know them. They are changing so much every day. I don’t want to blink and realize I knew everything about them at the age of 4 and 5, and now I have to get to know them all over again as adults because I accepted the one-word answers as they grew older.
So… Go ahead! Ask away…