Remember the prompt I sent out a few weeks ago: What is one thing that motherhood has taught you this month? Our friend Michelle wrote on the prompt and sent it to me! You guys - this is what I have been asking of you and one of you actually did it - YAY!! Please use Michelle as an example and try it. You don't have to send it to me, but if it's as awesome as I think it will be, I would love to share it. I really hope to add other voices to this newsletter on more of a regular basis.
Questions by Michelle Small
The other night I saw something that just didn't seem right. I ask, "What happened today?" Silence follows. I ask, "Did this happen at recess? Who were you with?" She stares at me with her lips as straight as a line and her eyes completely glossed over. I tell her I love her and I am only trying to help and she holds her hands up to her ears and walks away. Exhausted, I want to just yell after her “Fine! Forget it!!” I look down and there is my five year old, laying on the ground incredibly lethargic - an instant sign sickness is coming since he rarely ever is still for more than 20 seconds.
I give my daughter some space for a moment while I try to get my son to get up and put on his pajamas, knowing tomorrow I will likely be taking him to the doctor’s office. He refuses so I ask him “What hurts?” “How do you feel?” “Are you hungry?” He stretches his arms out and whines, “Momma. I want momma.” I give him a hug and then he lays back down. I let him lay there while I go search for the thermometer and check on my daughter. She is in tears and yells, “Don’t ask me anymore questions!!! It is too hard to talk about it!!!”
Reflection on my quest to help them both, I am realizing that asking a bunch of questions - a strategy that always helps me and also my students with their comprehension - is not always helpful. In motherhood, I am learning, sometimes silence can produce the answers. Sitting quietly with my son after taking his temperature (he didn’t have one at the time), I was able to check in with my gut feeling to know he needed to go to the doctor (he wound up having a high fever the next morning and an inflamed throat that needed medicine). Since the blow up with my daughter, I have stopped the constant peppering of questions and wait for her to cue me she is ready to talk. Amazingly, last night, she asked if she could read to me a part from a book she was reading. This book is one I actually recommended to her and, for the first time EVER, she took me up on the recommendation, AND now she wants to show me a part she likes and connects with. I feel like I finally have a win.
I learn and grow by questioning, but I am learning that isn’t how my kids necessarily learn or grow. It also does not seem to be a method to helps them to open up to me about what is going on in their lives. For my kids, the more questions I ask, the more unwilling to share they become. My daughter gets tense and stressed and my son just flat out ignores me and/or dances around (sometimes with underwear on his head) repeating my question or words in a sing song voice and refusing to answer them (He is feeling better today!).
It is SO hard for me, but I am learning to look for those opportunities to sit in silence or just side by side, waiting for them to be ready to share. I won't stop asking questions, but I will start pausing more before I do. It will help me decide if the questions I am bombarding them with will produce the answers I am hoping for.