"What did you do at kindergarten today?"
"Who did you play with?"
"Did you have fun?"
"Who did you sit next to for lunch?"
If, like me, you are parenting a child who attends kindergarten or day care, these are probably the same questions you ask your child at pick up.
And, like me, you are probably getting similar responses:
"I don't know."
"I can't remember."
"Lots of things."
"I am not sure."
One of the wonderful things about being a child is their capacity to live in the moment. Unlike adults, they don't dwell on the past, or worry about the future, and as someone who does both, I envy that capacity.
The moment they skip out of kindergarten and into your arms, they have left kindergarten for the day and slipped into the present moment, with you. They are genuinely not withholding anything from you; they have simply moved on and into the next moment.
Children have the extraordinary capacity to disappear into the moment.
We, as adults, either waste our present by investing it in thoughts of the past or by daydreaming about our future. Children don't worry about the future; they play and enjoy every moment for what it is. They easily forget the past, and the future is very tough for them to grasp. That's why when your child asks you to come and play, they mean now, and they can't handle the "I'll play with you a bit later" response. My standard response for a lot of things seems to be "in 10 minutes," but I realize this means nothing for a young child. Miss A is always asking me how long time is.
Life is all about what is in front of them at that point in time: the blocks, the balls, the picture they are drawing, the play they are acting out.
So in some ways it's quite unfair to bombard our kids with too many questions, as it's simply not in their nature to step back into memory. They live for the present. For the now. For what plans mum has for them at this moment in time. They don't want to reminisce too much about kindergarten or childcare. They want to know what's for afternoon tea, what game you're going to play and whether they'll be lucky enough to score Peppa Pig before dinner!
As parents, we are the gatekeepers of time. And we are preoccupied with it. We are constantly clock watching to see when we need to race out the door to the next activity; assessing windows of time to squeeze in another load of washing and preparing dinner while doing a puzzle while checking emails, while filling in a kindergarten form and so on and so on.
We are always anticipating our next move. And it's hard not to. It somewhat irks me, all this talk about being present that is saturating the media at the moment. Mindful mothering is lovely in concept but it's pretty bloody hard to achieve. While I agree with it in theory, we are never afforded such an indulgence. We'd never get anything done if we lingered in the present moment too much. Multi-tasking is an essential mothering skill and yet it's the antithesis of living in the present.
But we should try not to intrude on our children's capacity to be present.
It is perfectly natural, and indeed healthy, for young kids to not offer up a great deal of information when they've been away from you.
So, I've dispensed with all the questions at kindergarten pick up and now I usually just ask one question: "Did you have a good time at kindergarten today?" The answer has never been anything but "Yes" and that's good enough for me.
Winnie the Pooh sums it up beautifully:
"What day is it?"
It's today," squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day," said Pooh."
-- A.A. Milne
Do you find yourself asking lots of questions of your child when you've been apart from them? Are you able to live in the present?