Every day I ask my son, Blake, what he did at preschool. Every day I get the same answer, “I don’t know.”
“Of course you know,” I say, trying to stay patient. I ask Blake what songs he sang and what toys he played with. I ask about art, music, and his friends.
“I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”
But we haven’t talked about it at all, kid!
This back-and-forth continued until one day, while shuffling through my daily how-to-be-an-awesome-parent email digests, I stumbled on a gem addressing my dilemma. In the Washington Post, author and teacher Sara Ackerman suggested starting the conversation by telling your child what you did at work that day.
Oh, this was going to be rich. There was no way my four-year-old was going to care about my daily routine as a communications director at a local university. But I wanted to give it a try. Just for laughs.
The next afternoon, I asked what he did that day. He wanted to tell me about the blue Play-Doh dinosaurs he made last night after dinner. I told him we could talk about the dinosaurs in a bit, but first I had a question for him.
“Would you like to know what Mommy did at work today?”
His eyes grew big. “What did you do at work, Mommy?”
Meetings: Blake says he has a “meeting” at the start of each day with everyone sitting on the floor in a circle.
Most of my days include some sort of meeting too, I told him. With co-workers. With supervisors. With students. With random people who just want to get together and talk. We sit at tables without circle time, unless the tables happen to be round.
“What books do you read in meeting, Mom?”
I told him our meetings just involved talking. No readings of "Llama Llama Red Pajama" or "Pete the Cat." Just talking.
“Just talking?” he asked incredulously.
That does sound pretty boring. Next time, I’m going to ask our VP to lead us in a reading of "Green Eggs and Ham" before we get down to crafting our latest marketing plan. Hey, didn’t Dr. Seuss teach us to try new things?
Memos: My job involves lots of writing. That means typing on the computer mostly, but Blake doesn’t grasp the concept of typing as writing yet.
“What do your journals say?” he asked. “Do you have a pencil box?”
Most of the kids in his class can’t read or write yet, but they “journal” everyday, jotting down their “thoughts” in a composition book in response to a teacher’s question. With three-year-olds, it looks like a lot of scribbling, but it’s an exercise to prepare them for actual writing as they move to higher grades.
I told him we had memo pads and notebooks, and that I wrote lots of Important Stuff after listening to everyone talk during meetings. I let him know my more artistic coworkers sketched cartoons sometimes.
“That’s cool,” Blake said. “I like pictures, too!”
More doodles, fewer words. Got it. A picture gets the point across better than a five minute lecture. Any four-year-old will tell you that.
Eating: After a morning of activity, it’s time for Blake to eat lunch with his buddies. I told him I have lunchtime too.
“Who do you eat with?”
I stumbled and stuttered, then admitted I eat lunch alone.
“By yourself? Why by yourself?
I didn't know how to explain to him that I vow all the time to go to the company cafeteria and eat with coworkers more often, but it’s just easier to pop leftovers in the microwave and attempt to multitask at my desk.
“I do work at lunch,” I answered.
“Do you get lonely?”
Not really, I tell myself, but maybe my son is trying to get me to connect more with others. After all, what’s better than a shared meal with friends?
“No, but I should try something different,” I said.
Break time: Blake doesn’t know how good he has it. I told him that I start working again after lunch. He asked about nap-time. He doesn’t like to nap.
“Mommy doesn’t get to take a nap.”
Now he thinks I’m the lucky one because nap-time just means less playtime for him. But it doesn’t mean less work for me.
“What? You don’t go to sleep?”
I might have caught one or two zzzzs at my desk or in one of those meetings where people kept talking and no one read us a story. Let’s not tell my bosses about that.
By the time we were done, I wanted to hire Blake and his friends to transform our workplace. Okay, maybe we don’t want a focus group of four-year-olds arguing to eliminate nap-time, but the rest of their ideas are solid: more outside time, more play time, more friend time, and lots of books with pictures.
My son liked hearing what I do all day and now I know what he’s doing each day.
And I’m jealous. I want to go back to preschool and curl up for a nap.