“How was your day?”
“Who did you play with?” I ask my youngest daughter.
“Lots of people. Oh, Mom, you know what happened on the playground today?” And for the next five minutes she tells me a very detailed, socially nuanced story about how certain people aren’t playing together well.
Car talk. No, not the popular show about car repair on NPR, but talking in the car with your kids. Recently, I’ve discovered this is a great place to connect with my children whether I am driving them to school or ferrying them from one activity to another.
I think the car is a good forum because it allows them to speak without having to make eye contact — this makes it easier for them to talk about more serious subjects without the fear of your immediate facial reaction.
As parents, it also gives us the opportunity to seem casual when asking them questions. This is particularly helpful when I am really probing a situation, but don’t want to come across as prying.
I had the opportunity to drive a group of teenagers home the other night from an outing. Mostly, I listened to their banter as I pretended to be concentrating on the song on the radio. But, eventually, I saw an opportunity to weigh in on what turned out to be a conversation about the pros and cons of 13-year-old boys. Then the tables turned…
“How did you meet your husband?”
“How did you get engaged?”
“How did you know he was the one?”
They came at me in a barrage of words, each sentence spilling over the other one in a way that only excited 13-year-old girls can master. I answered each one, and then asked them about their parents’ history, which they gladly shared.
“So did you date anyone seriously before your husband?” I heard a lone voice in the back of the dark car ask me as we hurtled down I-40 towards home.
Game over, I decided. Time to turn up the radio …
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.