The art of talking to teenagers. 

For years, I’ve asked my kids the same uninspired question when I pick them up from school: How was your day? And for years, they’ve answered with the same uninspired answer: Fine. In fact, we’ve been round and round on this so many times that, last year, my daughter begged me to please stop asking how her day was because: “It makes me want to scream. No offense or anything, Mom.”

Okay, fair enough. No offense taken. That question wasn’t pulling its weight anyway.

I needed a better way to get at what exactly was going on with my kids at school and, more importantly, how it made them feel. (I am big into how things make my kids feel, much to their continued aggravation.) So, like any good parent in the digital age, I turned to the internet for advice. And the internet heeded my call! When I typed in “how to ask kids about their school day,” Google showed me list after list of questions I could ask my kids that, Google promised, would really get them talking. These questions would be the key that would unlock the secret world of my children’s innermost hopes and dreams. They would make our bond stronger, our love deeper, and bring us closer together than ever before. I wanted the key to that world! I wanted to be closer than ever before!

So I read article after article and synthesized the information to create one super-list. And I got in my car and drove to school, ready to be transported inside their teenage brains. I have transcribed the conversation that followed:

 

What did you eat for lunch?
Why? What’d you hear?

Did anyone do anything super nice for you?
Um, no. This is middle school. Nobody does anything super nice for anyone.

What was the nicest thing you did for someone else?
Didn’t I just answer that?

Who made you smile today?
Mom, are you okay?

Which one of your teachers would survive a zombie apocalypse?
Is this for a new book you’re writing?

Did anyone push your buttons today?
Other than you?

Who do you want to make friends with but haven’t yet?
Why? What’d you hear?

Tell me something you learned about a friend today.
I thought we weren’t supposed to gossip?

What challenged you today?
This conversation.

When did you feel most proud of yourself today?
That joke about this conversation was pretty good.

Tell me about a new word you heard at school today.
Why? What’d you hear?

What new fact did you learn today?
Time is relative. For example, this car ride home, while technically only five minutes long, feels like an eternity.

If aliens came to school and beamed up three kids, who do you wish they would take?
Seriously Mom, are you having some sort of crisis? Should we call Dad?

Tell me about three different times you used your pencil today.
Why? What’d you hear?

What is one thing you hope to learn before the school year is over?
The bus schedule.

 

As you can see, the conversation didn’t give me any special insight into their world. Or take our bond to new heights. Or bring us closer together. At one point, my daughter faked being asleep to avoid answering any more questions. But it did get us talking — granted, mostly about how weird I was, but still. We talked, we laughed, we made fun of me, and then we all went inside and had a snack. And I figure that’s better than nothing . . . and certainly better than “fine.”

 

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