Mission impossible

Written by Amanda Coop

Me: “How was school today?”

The kids (in unison): “Good.”

Me: “What did you learn today?”

The kids (in unison): “Nothing.”

Me: “Nothing? Not one single thing?”

The kids (in unison): “No.”

Rinse and repeat, for the next 12 years.

I dare say I’m not the only parent whose kids expect them to believe they spend 30 hours a week at school and learn not one single thing. Nada. Never mind the fact we send them there (mostly) unable to read, write, do mathematical calculations and a whole multitude of other things that I don’t have the time or space to describe here. It’s like upon entering school for the first time they become part of some secret society that decrees you can never let your parents know you’re actually learning things or that – gasp – sometimes you even enjoy those things.

If you happen to be a teacher or other staff member at my kids’ school and you’re reading this, rest assured I have no doubt whatsoever that they are learning many things during their time at our beautiful school. Sometimes Prep student Mr 6 will even slip up and run out excitedly to me at the end of the day saying “Mum! Guess what?! We learned a new sound today!” before remembering his apparent oath and reverting to his standard “ask me no questions” stance.

I thought perhaps I was just asking the wrong questions so instead of asking what they learnt, I decided recently to ask them to tell me their favourite thing about their day.

“Lunch time,” they said, I kid you not, in unison.

I let out an exasperated sigh.

“And what was it you liked about lunch time?” I asked, determined to uncover some meaningful information about their day.

“Well, eating lunch,” Mr 6 replied in an exaggeratedly simple tone.

“Duh,” Miss 10 added.

She then proceeded to tell him about some hilarious thing that had apparently happened on the oval at lunch time when another student accidentally kicked a ball into a teacher, her little brother cackling at the hilarity of it all as he listened to the story. What was this? Only seconds before they’d told me eating lunch (the same old lunch they insist on me packing every day) was the highlight of their day.

Now usually these children won’t shut up for love or money. They talk incessantly and even argue about whose turn it is to talk when they’re both firing some (non-school-related) story at me.

Maybe they’re just tired at the end of the day, I thought. Perhaps I need to give them a bit of downtime before questioning them.

Until our neighbour popped over the other afternoon.

“What did you learn in school today?” he asked Mr 6.

“We learned what a digraph is,” Mr 6 replied. “It’s when you have two letters that make one sound.”

“Oh wow,” replied the neighbour, “you must really like school.”

“I do,” Mr 6 said in his best earnest tone as I rolled my eyes.

“And what about you?” he asked Miss 10.

“Well, we’re working on persuasive texts at the moment,” she said.

It’s fair to say I was surprised and also just a little salty at this willing exchange of information.

“How come you never tell me stuff like that?” I asked a tad accusingly.

“I dunno,” she said, shrugging. “I guess you never ask.”