How was your day?
For generations, parents have been asking this question of their children daily around 3:00 p.m.
It seems innocent and logical enough, just a simple expression of curiosity about the time spent away from home.
However, as every parent knows, there is nothing innocent about it. In fact, it is loaded with angst, insecurity, and even a hint of desperation. Because what the kids don't realize, and we never show, when they grunt acknowledgement by offering a mindless "fine" or "OK" while scrolling through their social media, is that our parental self-worth is completely entangled in that question and their mindless answer.
Each day we send our children off to be raised by strangers. We do it, not because we want to, but because societal norms say we should, and because we know at school they will learn things they cannot at home. Chemistry, poetry, French, are all outside the range of the typical parents, and we take for granted that those skills will be taught when our kids are away. But, the true conflict for parents is that they are entrusting those same people to teach more than that. To teach those things, we as parents, would be teaching our kids if we could keep them home with us.
We would teach them to share with their siblings, to be responsible, to respect others, to have good manners, and to complete that which they start. Additionally, we desperately hope they are safe, happy, and inspired. These are the things we truly value in raising our children, and that we hope are embedded throughout their school day.
All of these expectations and hopes are tangled up in that simple question when our children climb into the car at the end of the day, and when their response is bland, thoughtless, and unenthusiastic, we can't help but question ourselves. We feel failure, and quietly put our hunger into tomorrow when we will gird ourselves to dive in once again with silent hope.
Then, just as we are settling into the feelings of failure and inadequacy, we repeat our daily ritual, and with cautious expectation, we pose the question again – Hi, how was your day? And suddenly we get a completely different response. “It was great...", and before we know it our child is sharing a story of an inspiring teacher and an amazing classroom experience. Maybe they solved a problem, scored a goal, or made a new friend. They are energized, excited, and anxious to share their experience and new knowledge or skill.
All of these small moments, albeit minor in the grand scheme of things, bring out a happiness in our children that in turn gives us the confidence and satisfaction of knowing that we are good parents. We made this happen. By placing them in this particular environment, our hopes and dreams for our children are coming true. While we are disappointed to not be there when it happens, we are satisfied in knowing that it is happening. As much as we want to be the inspiring ones in their lives, it is enough to know they are spending time with others who will serve that desire for us. For that one moment, our self-worth soars with theirs, and we feel the momentum building for tomorrow. You can’t wait for school to be “great” again. Shouldn’t it be great everyday?