When my kids first began attending school, they were more than willing to tell me about their day. And I mean their entire day. I got an earful from them right at pickup, and I didn't even have to ask them the obligatory after-school question: "How was your day?" I knew every little thing that happened while they were away, from what the letter of the day was to gossip about a classmate bringing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school (gasp!). Of course, there were things I really didn't need to know about, like that a boy picked his nose and wiped it on his desk, but it was nice that my children wanted to share all that happened during their day.
As my children got older, though, the details they gave about their day began getting shorter and shorter. Asking them "How was your day?" wasn't getting me anywhere, either — because they would usually respond with a short "Fine." What happened to the long-winded answers I used to get? And forget trying to get them to expand on their very nondescriptive answers and provide me with more details about their day. It genuinely felt like I was talking to a brick wall! And all of a sudden, I felt disconnected from my children . . . and that really hurt. I knew it was bound to start happening at some point, but I had assumed it would be when they were in middle school, not elementary school. I wasn't ready!
Fortunately, I came up with what I now call my go-to question to get my kids to tell me about their day. Instead of simply asking them how their day was and trying to drag details out of them, I ask, "What made you smile today?" This works like a charm every. single. time. The question allows them to reflect on their day and pinpoint the activities and people that made them happy throughout their day. It also opens up dialogue between us, as we expand on the positive moments they had at school. These conversations often last the entire car ride home, and I genuinely look forward to them the entire day.
I'm sure there will come a time (middle school, perhaps?) when my kids won't want to answer my new go-to question anymore and will probably respond with a moody "Nothing." But my job as their mother is to figure out yet another way to keep the lines of communication open between us and find other ways to stay connected with them. At that point, they may not like it or appreciate it, but if there's a will, there's a way. And us moms, well, we always find a way.