I get asked that every afternoon. It isn't really a question.
The report that follows starts with first period and ends with getting in the car. It is a ritual repeated by each child at some point when they get the floor. So I hear about Math then English, then mass then science then art then lunch where they didn't like what I packed for them to eat, then recess where they played zombie tag and were mad they didn't get to be it and spelling then P.E. and can we have snack?
Long ago I stopped pretending it was a conversation since they don’t say, “how was your day?” back and if I start to comment on something I get told, “I’m not finished yet.” Followed by “I’m next Mom!” and a chorus of Awwwws by those who weren’t as quick to grab the next spot in line for talking. They always time all the reports so it's time to get out of the car before I get to speak.
I’ve considered giving the kiddos caramel apples when they get in the car to get them chewing so I could one day say what happened at home but I’d have to find some method of making folding 12 loads of laundry and fixing the vacuum, answering the emails and giving their little brother and sister lunch sound less dull than I just did.
I also imagine the sheer volume of work and pain involved in any of my darlings getting the treat stuck in their or their sibling’s hair. So far it has kept me sufficiently cowed from attempting it.
Besides, the car ride home is Mom basic Intel time.
What I don’t hear is often more important than what I do.
Over the years, I’ve learned to read the drive home for the tell tale signs of “the rest of the story.” If the oldest is picking fights, check the backpack. There’s a paper that needs signing.
Silliness without a gut check in sight means a substitute teacher or a birthday invitation.
When the youngest child snags the coveted front row seat it means she sagely saved her snack and bribed the older ones so she can tell me about the funny story teller that visited today or ask for a play date. She's crafty that way.
If my fifth grader sulks in the back row, make a mental note to sit with her at home when she’s starting homework and have a hug ready. Somebody said something mean.
These are the easy ones that almost anyone can read.
But I’m a veteran seasoned professional mother, so I’ve learned a few more subtle things about the long road home.
Asking how they can earn money means there was a pitch of some sort or a scholastic books catalog came out. My kids groan when they learn that to earn money by working means you know…actual work.
When a kid says they hate a teacher, it means they either didn’t do the homework, got a bad grade or didn’t get what was done in school today.
When a kid says they have no friends, understand kids don’t count those that like them, only the ones that don’t.
When the kid answers “Fine.” and they normally give an essay answer, whatever else today was, it wasn’t fine. Go to other kids to get their days, hope the cumulative effect of hearing what everyone else did makes them want to talk. If not, stand ready to do a solo errand with non sentients and said person upset for the closest milkshake.
When one child asks to go back to the school, turn around. The odds are, three others forgot something.
Every once in a while, when they ask to go to the park, even though they have homework, say “Yes.” You’ll be the hero. It’s good to be the hero. Mental note: Don’t blow it by then being stressed out over schedules, homework and dinner.
And when they ask me first, "Hey Mom, how was your day?" it means there's a really big favor they're buttering me up for and thought up a strategy. "Sounds like your day was hard. Wish we could make it easier. You know, tonight's dinner night out for the school and..."
Next post: Dinner conversations, reading between the courses.