One of the hardest things in dealing with kids growing up, at least for me, is the silence. As I am a self-admitted talkaholic, the highlight of my day used to be listening to my mini chatterbox rant on about his day. From the kindergarten squabbles to the year 2 arguments to even listening to who got into trouble that afternoon or even that he got a certificate for attendance, I would be regularly updated with the news at school. Now, it's like a switch has come on and I don't hear a whimper. Sometimes, I feel like I am driving alone in my car.
It seems these kids (bordering on adolescence) have no idea what they do all day. Not a damn thing. From over sharing their day, we parents are left with blank stares and shrugs. How did I cope with this?
Yes, I bribed my son. I've taken him out for ice cream, bubble tea or even junk food (yuck) to get him to spend quality time with me and eventually tell me what happened at school. And what do I get as a response – "It was ok mum? Every day is the same". My inner voice growls with frustration. Not because I want to know how many kids got into trouble in the class but I miss him. I want to be involved. I want to know if my son is being responsible or disrespectful. Whether my upbringing of blood, sweat and tears from both sides have worked. And yes, this only lasts for a week.
I've tried another approach – being casual. "What's up little man?" I would ask, and I am greeted with a stare and a shrug. "So... did you make any progress with..." – my reply is usually "Mum, I was in school all day... I don't know what you are talking about." Or "I'm tired..." His response to "What was your favourite thing that happened in school today?" – immediate eye roll and looking out the window and I am left to sing off-key to Jason Derulo all the way home.
Then, I thought if you can't fight this, might as well join. So I too remained silent. I refused to ask questions about his day. Despite my best judgment and curious nature, I decided not to say one word. The silence was my companion to and back from school. Surely, my son would think something is wrong because his mama is never this silent. And that would be enough to convince him to tell me something... anything... However, like my other plans, this backfired. The only thing it did show him was how nice and quiet it is not to have their mother ask him questions. As soon as I started asking again, he said, "Mum, I was there all day. I don't even want to think about it once I am home". Sigh...
But thanks to that one sentence, I realized something. It is not that he doesn't want to tell me what is going on. It's just that he is simply too tired to tell me. He probably doesn't have the energy to debrief me on his entire day. I suppose it is akin to a full day's work for me. When I come after work, the last thing I want to do is rehash my day with someone and I would prefer to keep a distance between my personal and work life.
Although we do not seem to chat endlessly in the car rides, I have noticed during dinner, or during the lull times of the day, my son will curl up next to me and tell me some random occurrence that happened in his day. And I realize, this is what I wanted and now I've got it. So the good news is when something amazing happens, he will surely let me know and if he messes up, someone at school will inform me.