Go find a small child and take ten minutes to interview him or her. I don’t know what you’ll hear, but I do know that you won’t be disappointed.
A few weeks ago I sat down with each of our three oldest kids and gave them a one-on-one interview. The entire process immediately took on an air of importance to them because we went off somewhere quiet and private (those being relative terms, of course). I spoke with only one child at a time, so I could really listen to their answers with undivided attention. In a house with lots of activity and competition for attention, believe me, that got noticed. Just Mom, listening to me? Not cooking lunch at the same time? This must be important.
We sat down at the kitchen table and outside in the back yard. For ten minutes with each child, I did nothing but ask, listen, and write. And of course, giggle, nod, and provide an “Oh wow!” when appropriate. For all of the time I spend with my kids, around them day in and day out, I spend relatively little time intently focused in on any given child. As a parent, I don’t think I’m unique in this. At any given time, my mind is sorting through a million things while I’m doing the simple tasks at hand. When I’m helping someone brush teeth, I’m thinking about that insurance form to drop in the mail. It’s pretty easy to not be present.
An interview, however, by nature requires full presence and engagement. I wish I could say I came up with this meaningful activity all on my own, but I didn’t. I borrowed this idea from Kate Riley’s blog, Centsational Girl. In my chosen profession of teaching, it is standard practice to beg, borrow, and steal good ideas, so that’s what I did.
I now present the interviews with my 6-year-old daughter, 5-year-old son, and 3-year-old son. For simplicity, I’m labeling their responses by their ages: 6, 5, or 3. Their responses are endearing to me as their mother, but I also know that ideas out of any child’s mouth always entertain.
What was the happiest day of your life?
6: Christmas! No, the last day of school.
5: The day when you didn’t have to cook at all.
3: Happiest day is my mom.
If you could change what thing in the world, what would it be?
6: Candy! Plant a candy tree and make it grow everywhere you want.
5: I’d change lunch to brunch. I’d only make brunches.
3: My mom.
When were you most afraid?
6: Late at night. It scares me if a wolf will come.
5: The Wizard of Oz. I couldn’t get to sleep thinking about the witch.
3: I think a monster makes me scared, because because my dad just kills the monster.
What do you want to do for a job?
6: A person who draws and paints. Kind of be an artist.
5: Artist. Use lots of colors and makes some splatters and drips, use some sand, even tree leaves. Like Antique that paints on TV. Her paintings are so beautiful.
3: Hmm…let me think about it. Do what makes me happy, that way I’m not so sad. And I’ll step on the monsters.
What’s the one thing you can’t live without?
6: My “blankie” and family.
3: Hmm…That little baby over there (pointing to his sister). She’s a cute little baby.
Describe your perfect day.
6: Go to the big park with Mom and Dad and my family and my friend. Spend some time with my family and play with my friend.
5: On a hot day going to the Mississippi, watch a little TV, swing, jump on the trampoline. That’s all.
3: Maybe I’d fly an airplane when I get bigger. I’d just be flying all by myself.
Who are your friends?
6: McKayla, because she’s fun. Boston, he asks me to race.
5: Carter, Shelby, Jackson, Keara (his cousin). I know that cousins can be friends, but you can’t marry your cousin.
3: My friends just be nice to me, and not eating me because they’re nice.
And then I asked them about myself!
What was Mom like as a child?
5: I don’t know!
3: I think you wanted a toy to play with. And I was a little girl, too (this is my son).
What does Mom do when you’re not around?
6: Take a nap if she’s really tired.
5: Clean the house.
3: When I am sleeping, you are just making lunch for me.
What’s Mom’s favorite food?
6: That pizza that’s new.
What’s Mom really good at doing?
5: Writing your articles.
3: Good at making supper for us while we’re all sleeping.
What’s Mom really bad at doing?
6: Jump roping!
5: Hmm…That’s a hard one. Can we skip it?
3: One time my mom was sick, and I was very sad that she wasn’t coming into my room and nursing me.
What’s Mom’s favorite place?
6: With her friends.
5: Olive Garden. Some day can we go there?
3: My mom’s favorite place is at home with me.
How do you know your mom loves you?
6: Because she takes me to bed at night and doesn’t want me to be too tired in the morning for school.
5: You give me hugs and kisses! That was easy. Not hard at all.
3: When I was a baby, I was just born out of your tummy.
After interviewing my kids, what did I learn? My daughter knows that I send her to bed because I love her. I am perfection in the eyes of my 5-year-old son. My 3-year-old’s ideas reach far beyond his current speech abilities. And as for me, I just need to slow down and be intently present every now and then. To everyone.
Go on. Take ten minutes. From the mouths of babes…