I recently went to pick up my preschooler from school and his teacher asked if I had a minute (never a good sign). He proceeded to tell me about an incident that had happened that day where kids had used their hands instead of their words and how the teachers had responded and how they were handling the situation. I actually felt pretty good about the whole thing, and promised that I would do my part at home to reiterate the teachings going on at school.
Fast forward to later that night when my son and I are lying in bed and we finally have a quiet moment. I attempt to bring up what happened at school that day (in a totally non-judgy, supportive way!) only to be met with… poop jokes. (Please tell me I’m not the only mom of a preschooler where most of the conversations revolve around bowel movements?) After a few more failed attempts, I recognize that my kid isn’t ready to talk about the incident and all I can do is try again later.
Except I know that there’s a good chance that I won’t try again later. You know, because mornings are always rushed and then after school we have swim class which means we’ll be late for dinner and we definitely can’t skip the bath after being in the pool, and by that point he’ll be totally exhausted so it’ll be straight to bed, and then the following day I’m going into the city for work and then I have dinner plans and then it’s the weekend and he’ll be too excited about his friend’s birthday party to have a calm conversation, not to mention that by that point his 4-year-old brain will have forgotten all about what happened three days ago. Well, thank goodness his teachers can help him with this stuff, I thought. And it’s true—we have wonderful teachers and I have full confidence in their abilities. But I couldn’t help but feel sad that so much of my day-to-day interaction with my child is about shepherding him from A to B, and making sure he’s fed and somewhat clean, rather than talking about complicated topics and teaching him big life stuff. (Unless you count all the fart jokes, that is.)
I complained about this to my friends at dinner the following night and it struck a chord—they, too, felt like they were so busy with the daily responsibilities of child rearing that they didn’t have enough time for heartfelt conversations and moral guidance. Between work, getting dinner on the table, making sure the kids have their winter gear, organizing activities and playdates and staying on top of all the school emails (so. Many. Emails), how the hell are parents supposed to have time for anything else? Should I be spending less time making muffins for the fall festival potluck and more time having conversations about equity and kindness, or even just playing with him?