This week Andrea and I had an encounter with our kids that made me take pause and ask myself what am I doing. It started early in the week when we all arrived at the house from our variety of activities, I remember hearing Andrea ask Taiya “how was school?”. Taiya gave the same response I probably gave to my parents when they asked that question of me 30 years ago which was “fine”. Nothing more, nothing less. So as all good parents do, Andrea asked the standard follow up questions “what did you do today in school?”. To which I’m sure you could guess Taiya’s response…. “nothing”. I remember listening to that and thinking why do parents ask these questions when we know that type of responses we will receive.
So, the next day as we are getting home, I’m the first one to strike up a conversation with the teenagers, and wouldn’t you know it, my mind went on autopilot. The first question I ask is “how was school?” Shockingly I got the same exact answer the Andrea got the day before. I stood there in disbelief that I had just uttered those words.
I started thinking, as a kid of course their day is “fine” because from their point of view every day is pretty much the exact same as the day before and the next day. They have no control over what they are doing. They are creatures of an extremely structured routine that doesn’t allow a lot of room for individuality or freedom and it’s created for them. We as parents look back fondly at school as a time of learning and reduced adult responsibilities but we have that luxury because of hindsight. We forget that as students, at least for me, there were many days that were just “fine” and that I felt like I learned “nothing” because it was all I knew of the world.
So this weekend I will sit down with my teenagers and do an exercise called “The Perfect Day”. Each of us will write down what our perfect day would look like. What activities we would be involved in, where we would live, and how we would spend our time. Then we will each write down the things we need to do this week to help make that perfect day possible. I’m betting each of the kids will identify performing well in school or specific classes as part of the required work necessary to get to their “perfect day”. It is my hope that this exercise will help inspire them to take ownership of their school performance and to realize that at some point we are all in charge of our days but before we get there we must lay a good foundation if we want to live our “Perfect Day”.