This is first of series I'm writing this year called "The Decade of Dad". Every month I'll be talking about one lesson about parenting I've learned over the past 10 years.
My eldest turned 10 this month, which means 2 things:
My baby is too big and that makes me a little weepy
I've been a dad for a whole decade
Here's one lesson I've learned in those 10 years: Don't ask them about their day the moment you pick them up or when they arrive home.
You may get lucky: maybe they had a brilliant day and just can't wait to download everything they've experienced into your brain, but it's much more likely that they are physically and mentally drained when they first see you.
(This is also why we see some of the worst behaviour as our kids arrive home)
This is not unique to the kiddos, if we're honest. How often have you had an incredibly hard and tough day at work, but when you get home and someone asks you about it, you say "Ugh, you know, it was what it was". No further info, no stories, no details. You just don't have the brain energy at that point to explain how your day went.
So even though I am, honestly, kinda desperate to know what's going on in my kids' day, I just say hello them when they arrive, give them a hug, and then give them a bit of time to let everything settle down.
Then once they have been fed and watered and maybe played around a little, that's when I ask what happened in the day. I try to keep that specific, too.
So instead of "How was cricket practice?", I'll ask, "Did you get a chance to practice your bowling today?"
Another example: Instead of, "What did you learn about today?", I'll ask something like, "What was the first subject you worked on today?"
The second option is easier for them to answer and is likely to lead to further conversations about what they experienced.
Sometimes, even with the best tactics and opening questions, I still get zero response. These are moments that send my dad brain into anxiety, because I start to wonder what they aren't telling me. Did something happen? Are they in trouble? Did I upset them somehow? Are they getting bullied? Are they the bully? WHY AREN'T THEY SAYING ANYTHING?
It's at these moments that I have to trust that the relationships I've built with these kiddos are strong. I know that they know that they can talk to me about whatever they need to, and that they will come to me when they're ready.
This is like holding water in your hand. You've got to be firm and steady, but relaxed and calm all at the same time.
Finally, all of this is said in the context of not being in the teenage zone yet. So yes, I'm aware that all of this will get tougher. I'm hoping for the best though!