This is Thomas. Thomas is 5. Thomas is a well-practiced keeper of information.
Thomas never divulges any intelligence in the first instance. This kid has supposedly been trained by top secret-keeping agents in the art of keeping any knowledge tight to his chest.
This works well instances such as birthday times and other such secret-keeping moments. 'Don't tell Dad I deleted his game, o.k? We'll just say it was an accident.' and 'Don't tell Ethan about the felt-tipped pens - they are just for you and me' are potentially life-saving instances of secret-keeping goodness. He won't tell you what your birthday present is, even if you bribe him with chocolate.
And I've tried.
That's pretty impressive.
But, every damn day when I pick him up from school, I ask the same two questions.
- Did you have a nice day at school today?
- What did you do at school today?
Question two is my bastard nemesis.
The answer is always a very casual, very throwaway,
It drives me crazy!
I have met the challenge head-on and come up with 5 ways of interrogating (without torture). I'm not saying they work, but I'm developing new strategies all the time. I have to - he's getting wise to my moves. I hope they work for you. I'm screwed when he hits them teenage years!
1. Bribery and Corruption
This very much depends on how nice you are feeling and how much you want to know. Bribery ranges from 'tell me about your day over a hot chocolate at the cafe', to 'you only get to play your computer if you tell me what you did'. Try not to turn it into a hellish power-struggle. There's a fine line between looking for information and being a complete bastard to your child.
Start with small plunder; football cards, a trip to the park, a chocolate bar. Keep the larger items for times of real need. Don't use this tactic all the time, or in Pavlovian-style, you'll have chocolate/treat in hand every time you need to know how he did on his spelling test.
2. The Walk-Through
A slightly gentler, more friendly kind of interrogation. This is one to break out when you have slightly more time to wear down strong defences.
Start with THE DREADED QUESTION, wait for the DREADED ANSWER and work on it from there.
I begin from the point I left him at.
'Right, so you went into line and then I saw you go in. You waved at me, and then...'
*wait for answer*
'O.K, so you walk into school, you put your coat on your peg and theeeeennn...?'
'Er, and then Miss Clark asks me to sit down'
'Riiiiight. And then you...?'
'And then does she take the register?'
'What's a registrerer?'
'Never mind. So you went in line, you walk into school, I waved to you, you hung up your coat and thennn...?'
'I put my bag in at my desk first, I didn't hang up my coat. I had to get my water out of my bag.'
'So you went into line, you waved at me, you put your bag at your desk...'
You can see how this goes on. I'm not going to lie, it's a long, painful, drawn out process, but if you carry on you get such nuggets of information like actual classroom activity, and what he ate for lunch.
3. Sharing Information
Sometimes I go for the whole positivity approach. I'll go in like the good cop I am and totally side-swipe him with a whole 'Guess what I did today?'
And he's nothing if not nosy so he'll say 'what?', more likely in anticipation that I've gone out and got him The Lego Movie Game for PS3 on a whim or bought him something crazy, like a quad bike or something totally ridiculous, because he's 5, and 5 year olds have amazing over-active imaginations and like to dream big (amen to that).
And then I'll just wade in with whatever hellish boring stuff I've done today, and make it sound ridiculously exciting and like I've had the best day ever (even though, in the main, I have done washing, cleaning and general fannying around on the internet) in an effort to get him to come back at me in the same manner.
Beware; this tactic is hit or miss.
Either he'll come back with 'whoah! That's cool mum, I did this *list of stuff I've never even heard him mention before ever, let alone tell me about in his after-school speech*
'That's nice. Then what did you do?'
To which I reply, 'I dunno'.
4. Competition Making
I'm not gonna lie, when times get tough, having 2 boys I can pit against each other is great. Two children are better than one, because in times of great need you can use one against the other. I don't mean in a childhood destroying way folks - you should never do that. I mean in a harmless, competitive way. (Note, I do not do this all the time. I know the difference between harmful and harmless!)
I pull this move out of the bag when I have to get them both somewhere, i.e the car in the morning.
'Oh! Who's gonna be the winner? Who can get into the car first? Who can get their belt on first?'
And it works. Two children, ready to go somewhere in half the time it usually takes.
'Who can get into bed first?' is genius.
My personal favourite though is 'Who can find their shoe first?'
I can never find shoes in the morning - this has saved me all kinds of bother.
In the car, after everyone is picked up and ready to go home, I do the whole 'who wants to tell me about their day?' business.
And of course, both children want to compete with each other.
When all else fails, I just bide my time. Like the information-extracting ninja I am.
Dad just has to walk in the bloody room.
Case in point: Tonight, I have tried all of my tricks, and a grumpy, tired Thomas is not playing. Instead, I wait. Dave comes home and it's all,
'Hey, Dad! I played Rugby today and I really loved it!'
Straight off the bat.
Frustrating as hell.
I've been on the other side of this and I know it would be the same for Dave if it was me just coming in, so I know there's no favouritism here, but it's no less annoying or soul-destroying.
I'll get you, boy!