By the time Nicholas moved into Year 4 I had become really bored of asking the same question every day to be met with the exact same response. Post-school conversation goes as follows:
Me: How was school?
Me: What did you do?
Nic: Numeracy and literacy
Me: Anything else?
Nic: Can’t remember
And so this was repeated every week day for 38 weeks of the year. But how exactly do you get your kids to talk about their day? One of the things I pride myself on and is crucial in my family home is that every evening we are all home together we all sit at the table and eat dinner as a family. On our wedding day my husbands speech even included the line “the family that eats together stays together”. The dinner table is the perfect place to catch up with each other and report back on our day. All electrical devices are banned at the table, we actually sit and talk to each other, you know, like in the olden days! Even Millie gets involved in the dinner time debates now, at almost 9 months she has started repeating words, last night it was potato and water… random, but a sure sign she is listening and taking in our conversation.
A little while ago I decided it was time we took our dinner conversations up a level and encourage Nic to divulge a bit more about his day. Me and the husband have a habit, in our general day to day conversation, of ranking things. All time favourite film when trying to decide on a film to watch, top five songs when listening to a particular classic on the radio from back in the day (I still find it impossible to answer this one)…. So I started to introduce a similar theme to our dinner table chatter. Straightaway I managed to find out so much more about what Nic had been up to at school but also a bit about the things he is really interested in and what he struggles with.
So if you also have kids who are reluctant to chat and you’re struggling to get anything but a “good, thanks” from them, here is our list of dinner time conversation starters.
1. Best thing that’s happened to you today: This one still generally gets a fairly standard response along the lines of “scored an awesome goal at lunchtime”. But at least it’s something to expand on, who was on your team? Did you play football all of your lunch break? Weren’t you tired from all that running around? And the husbands response “You made me a sandwich for lunch instead of a packet of custard creams”, but only on the days I’m feeling particularly domestic goddess like!
2. Worst part of your day: This is usually met with some moan or groan about a topic at school Nic didn’t enjoy or the fact he got moved to a table away from his friends (unjustly of course! Nothing is ever your fault at ten years old). Bingo! There you have it, there was in fact more to his day than numeracy and literacy!
3. What did you learn today? This is my favourite dinner time question but also the one that fills me with dread when it gets round to my turn to answer. What do you actually learn on maternity leave? How to change the nappy of a nine month old baby who has suddenly become as slippery as a bar of soap covered in Vaseline??!! How to rescue your little monster who has managed to get stuck in the ball pool at soft play while maintaining some dignity climbing the rope bridge? Thank the Lord for Alexa and the “tell me a fact” function. A quick shout out to our new family friend before the boys get home and I’m armed with my “what did you learn today” response. It makes me so proud when Nic tells us a fact and it’s something both interesting and also something I didn’t already know. This week he has educated me to the fact that slaves lost their own identities and took on the surname of the owner of the plantation on which they worked. I probably should’ve known this already but I didn’t! And hearing the history behind it from a ten year made it all the more interesting.
Since we have started this little dinner time ritual I actually now get to know about my family’s day and the highs and lows of what they’ve been doing. It keeps conversation inclusive of everyone and it’s wonderful the days Nic is bursting to tell us his fact of the day.
One final comment… The conversations aren’t always like an idyllic scene from the Waltons. Just last week Nic’s worst part of his day was worrying his friend had caught Ebola. When asked why, he replied “a classmate put a pencil in his underpants near his willy, then my friend touched it, that’s how you catch Ebola”… Swiftly moving on!