“Why do you always ask me so many questions?”
My daughter lobbed this question to me last week. It was asked innocently enough in response to a quick “how was your day?” but it stopped me in my tracks. When I (ironically) asked her what she meant by that, her answer was a casual, “you always want to know a lot about what’s going on in my life”.
Why, yes. Yes, I do want to know a lot about what’s going on in your life.
Do You Ask Your Teen Questions?
I am self-aware enough to know that my parenting style has always been very hands on with all three of my kids. As much as I wanted to be a considered a “chill” mom, I do not have it in me to play fast and loose with what is going on in their heads.
I have friends that have a much more laid back attitude in the parenting department. Me, not so much. My mind tends to wander to darker places when I don’t have information, even the most mundane pieces of it.
When they were younger and got home from school, I always checked in on how their day was, how much homework they had, etc. Sometimes I delved a little deeper and deigned to ask more intimate questions like where they sat at lunch or if X was still dating Y. The horror.
As they got older, the rules for nights out with friends were no different. I always kept my bedside light on and the kids had to come say goodnight before they went to bed. My sleepy questions may have lacked energy, but I still asked. “How was your night?” and “Who drove you home?”
The kids often complained that this house edict was something akin to the Spanish Inquisition and that I was looking for signs of misbehavior. The real reason may surprise them to this day—I liked saying goodnight and knowing that they were safe and sound. Peace of mind is the equivalent of gold when dealing in the currency of parenting.
The short of it is that I check in with my kids a lot. That’s no secret to me or my kids or basically anyone that has ever known me. I have two in college and one in high school and that still holds true to this day. Since kids tend to give monosyllabic replies, I often find myself asking multiple questions just to get even the slightest bit of information.
The Twenty Questions game may very well have been invented right in my own kitchen as far as I’m concerned. And often, in the end, I still didn’t know if the answer was animal, vegetable or mineral. But I’ll keep asking those questions regardless.
How my kids and I view this style are polar opposites it would seem. According to my kids, I am just shy of a CIA operative using enhanced interrogation techniques. To me, I am a parent that feels it is their job to be in the trenches with them, particularly through those pesky teenage years. What they may not know or understand is that I also consider myself a friend who is genuinely interested in what is going on in their daily lives.
Even if the answers are a simple yes or no, I feel it’s important to keep asking. Maybe one day those answers will have a few tears attached or a hint of a secret smile, but that’s information in and of itself. That’s how I will know when to delve a bit further or stand down and let things lie. Sometimes I will get it right and sometimes I won’t.
The game show Jeopardy is built around asking questions to suit a category of answers. Parenting is not all that different at times and in the category of Things I Need to Know About My Kids, I will always take the $2,000 slot for the hardest questions, thank you very much, Alex Trebek.
So in light of my daughter’s recent question, my answer is and will always be, “because I love you.” I love you enough to want to know if you are struggling. I love you enough to want to know if something truly wonderful is happening in your life. And I love you enough for everything in between.
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Patty Walsh has worked in the public relations industry for over 25 years. She lives in Maine with her husband, three kids and everything that goes along with it, including her ungroomed dog and dirty laundry.