Three Things I don’t Know About You
I’ve mentioned before that I try to do “devotions” with my kids before they leave for school each morning. Despite the name, this time isn’t necessarily or even frequently religious in nature (though the name does come from the idea of doing a daily devotional). I use it as a kind of daily “check-in” time, where I can talk with them about whatever might be on our minds.
Some days we talk about an issue that’s been coming up recently – “I’ve noticed that your school lunches are coming home uneaten. What’s up with that?” Some days we might talk about a current issue that’s circulating in the public consciousness – “I heard you talking about the high school kids protesting the new sex ed curriculum? Do you know what that’s all about?” Some days we might just do a check-in – “Hey, what’s making you glad, sad, or mad?” Some days we might do some spiritual exercises – “Let’s spend some time quietly meditating today, shall we?”
One of the really useful things of been doing recently, maybe once every couple of weeks, is asking them to tell me three things that I don’t know about them, and then doing the same for them in return. I did it first by mistake. One day I couldn’t get my youngest to engage on the topic we were supposed to be discussing (I can’t even remember what now), and when I pressed him, he said, “Dad, you don’t know everything about me.”
It was a bit of a non sequitur (at least in my mind), but my immediate reaction was to say, “Well, tell me something I don’t know then. In fact, tell me three things.” He wasn’t sure what to do with that, so I offered to begin. I told him that I’d had a pet rabbit when I was small, that I’d worked on commercial fishing boats for a summer job as a teen, and that my first girlfriend’s name was Kate.
Then he got into it. He told me rambling stories about how his friends don’t like to play zombies on the climbers any more, about how he helps the kids who are too nervous to talk in class, and about how he takes his action figures to school so that they won’t be lonely. He talked until I thought we’d be late for school.
I’ve since asked that question a few times more with him, and also with his older brothers, and the response has always been surprising. They seem to enjoy learning trivia about me, and they love the idea of hunting for things that I might not actually know about them. And then they’re off, talking away about their lives and their passions and their worries and just about anything that comes through their heads.
The best part is that I actually do learn things about them that I don’t know. For whatever reason kids don’t always share the stuff going on in their minds. They seem to assume that parents know everything anyway, or that they need to deal with things themselves, or that people won’t care about the details of their lives. I often have the experience of hearing about a problem they’re having or a challenge they’re facing, and wondering why they didn’t bring it to me (or anyone else for that matter) a little bit sooner.
And now they do (at least some of the time). Just this morning my youngest told me about a problem he’s having with another kid at school. It was nothing too serious, something easy to nip in the bud with the kid’s parent at drop-off time, and it may never have become anything, but you never know.
One of the things my middle kid told me this morning was that the money he’s been saving (manically, annoying everyone around him), is to buy his girlfriend a phone. I don’t know that this information solves anything, but it does explain why he’s been so worked up about money, so maybe it can help me respond to him a bit better.
The point is, for whatever reason, asking my kids to share with me the things that I don’t know about them has given them the opportunity to get some things off their chests at the same time as it’s given me a chance to know (and even help) them in ways that I otherwise couldn’t have. It may be worth a try in your home too.