Having a conversation with a toddler can be quite frustrating, especially when you are trying to extract information from them. Just like waiting for your favourite series to stream when you are at Zuku’s mercy, it humbles you to know there’s not much you can do to get your child to talk when you need them to. You know, like when you get home from work and you want to find out how they spent their day in school. You just have to sit there and say a silent prayer for the Lord to expand their vocabulary and give them more words besides “good”.
When Xena joined playgroup, I would rush home in the evening through the chaotic rush-hour traffic. On several occasions, I would be that inconsiderate driver committing a barrage of traffic offences including but not limited to overlapping just so that I could get home in time to listen to tales about school. However, she only had one worded answers for me.
“How was school today?” I would ask her.
“Good.” She would respond.
“What did you do?” I would probe further.
“We played.” She would say.
“And then?” I would ask.
“We came home.” She would say with the finality of the Supreme Court.
That dialogue lasted a maximum of thirty seconds. I bet most parents with first-time schoolers and also older toddlers who are not very expressive will find the above conversation painfully familiar.
Given that she loved school and she was quite a talker, the fact that she did not make any effort to let me in on her experience in school pained me. But after doing a bit of research, I found out that it was hard enough for kids at that age to remember what they had for lunch. So, it was unfair to expect her to remember how she spent the entire day.
However, I discovered that she would be more inclined to share if I was more specific in my questions. That would only be possible if I versed myself with as much information about the school including her teachers and classmate’s names and the various activities they engaged in on different days. My strategy was incredibly successful.
“How was school today?” I asked.
“Good.” She said.
“What did you do?” I pressed on.
“We played with blocks.” She said.
“Did anyone get a star?” I asked.
“We all got stars for doing a good job of cutting pictures and sticking them with glue.” She said and I smiled at the results my approach was yielding.
“Well done.” I said and proceeded to ask,
“Did any of the kids get up to anything interesting or naughty?”
“No.” That would be her standard response, until I pushed her.
“Not even Nolan or Daniel or Jaydeep or Trevor?”
“Mommy you know, Nolan was pretending to be a monster by putting crayons in his ears to look like horns. Then he would chase after us and we all ran.”
“Like this?” I would demonstrate and chase her around the house and she would giggle so hard.
“What did Mrs Shawn say during story telling hour?”
“She told us the story of Pharaoh.” (pronounced ferow and not farao like I thought it should be. Took me a while to figure out who the hell that was!)
Of-course now that she is older and chattier, she is excessively forthcoming with information and most times I have to cut her short! The only reason I am recounting the struggles that come with conversing with a toddler is because her sister Xia will soon join school (someone hand me a box of tissue) and I needed refresher courses. But most importantly, this piece of information might be of help to a parent out there undergoing a similar struggle.
You know how else you can extract information from your kids? By teaching them how to pray and listening to them go at it. Xena’s prayers have taught me so much about her in the last two weeks. For starters, either she desperately loves school or she hates embarrassing moments, going by her prayer; “Dear Lord, we thank you for everything. Please remind my daddy to pay my school fees because I don’t want to be kicked out of school.”
The funniest one was when I learnt how badly she wants to learn Swahili, something her prayer alluded to.
“Dear Lord, thank you for our mommies and daddies and sisters and aunties. Help me to learn Swahili before I turn five.”
I don’t know why she had a deadline but all I can say is that she needs to pray harder because she’s now five and the only Swahili she knows is “kata keki tukule sasa!”