At dinner, it’s expected that we will each share something about our day. I knew I was getting into a rut when the three-year-old started asking enthusiastically, “Did you send any emails today?!”
Last year I wrote about the challenges of coming home without context. Things are easier now, especially as my girls get better at being able to have conversations about our days. At dinner, it’s expected that we will each share something about our day, with my younger daughter often prompting with a sly whisper, “Daddy, ask me to tell you about my day.”
I often prompt the girls with asking about an emotion tied to their day:
- “What is something that made you happy today?”
- “Was there a time today you felt bored?”
- “Did anything happen today that you didn’t expect?”
They now almost always have answers and will often be with impatient with each other about who gets to share first. This is a good problem to have that I expect to disappear when the girls are teenagers, but I am soaking in it while I can.
The problem I’m finding these days is when they direct the question back at me: “How was your day, Daddy?” I struggle to answer them in a way that doesn’t make my life sound horribly boring. I feel like Billy Crystal in City Slickers describing how he sells air. I don’t have a Richard Scarry job. While I’m glad I’m not an anthropomorphized pig butcher that sells pig meat to other anthropomorphized pigs, my job is difficult to explain to adults, let alone my kids.
I knew I was getting into a sharing rut when the three-year-old started asking enthusiastically, “Did you send any emails today?!” If I break down the physical actions of how I spend my day at work, I type words into a computer and talk to people on the phone. I manage projects that move at speeds best described as glacial. Often, day-to-day success is measured in very small increments. The best possible days are when nothing breaks.
When it comes down to it, my job is to communicate with other humans and to solve problems. Sometimes my day is spent figuring out the big solutions to big problems, some days are spent putting out the day-to-day fires of implementation/maintenance. Each day, I’ll try to start sharing what problems I actually solved that day, even if I think my kids might find it boring. At this point, I think it’s still more about the act than the content.
Days I do something novel, I do get excited to share even when I know the girls are not going to get excited about it. Recently, I’ve been teaching myself AppleScript to solve repetitive annoyances in my day. One day, I figured out how to automatically remove every third line from an Excel spreadsheet. Another day, I figured out how to send several hundred emails with variable content based on some database fields. The girls have no context for any of that, but I know they can tell when I am excited and when I’m not. It’s a big difference when I respond “Well, today I sent some emails” versus “TODAY I BENT A COMPUTER TO MY WILL”.
Part of what makes it so hard is by the end of the work day, I’m tired of thinking about work. It’s hard to think of a child-friendly summary of my day without having to revisit the thing I’m done thinking about. And if I’m honest with myself, some days I am not particularly happy with what I accomplished. Talking about it just makes me feel guilty about that day’s lack of progress.
I know I should just share that. I know my girls need to hear from a grown up that it’s OK to have a bad day. But on the worst days, I’d rather internalize my self-deprecation and try to live under a warm blanket of denial. I tell my girls that I cannot read their minds and they need to use words to tell me what’s going on. And, at least until their mutant powers develop at puberty, unfortunately they can’t read my mind either. I know the more I can share with them about myself, the closer we will be, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t HARD.
Photo by: Noel Reynolds