The After School Routine
Five days a week, it’s the same thing. I leave the house at a certain time, carrying a book or some manuscript I’m editing along with my red pen, and head to the 9 year-old’s school to wait in a long line for twenty-five minutes to pick her up and take her home. I don’t mind waiting. I’m a writer. My work goes with me no matter where I am. It’s great to carry your world with you. I’ve sat in the mall as the girls had their nails done, outside a restaurant as we waited to be seated, and outside of someone’s work waiting for their escape. I’ve become accustomed to making the most of my time. Waiting for the 9 year-old to get out of school is no different.
It’s become routine. I inch my way forward in the long line of cars. Sometimes she’s out and waiting for me. Other times, she’s a tad tardy and I’m waiting on her. Then the questions start. “Did you remember your vocabulary book? Your reading book?” Most often she has remembered. A couple of times she has had to go back to her class and get them. Finally, we can pull away from the curb and head home.
She reaches for a bottle of water in the cup holder, another part of our routine. “School makes me very thirsty,” she has told me and so a bottle of water is waiting. It wasn’t hers originally. It was mine and she took it. I’ve since learned to have a bottle there so I can still drink mine. It has also become an expectation and the first thing she reaches for.
Then the questions continue. “Did you have a good day? How much homework do you have tonight?”
And then I always say, “Okay, give me three things that happened to you today.”
After raising three boys, I have learned that unless you ask them, they will not tell you. So, I ask. And the 9 year-old tells me. “We had recess today.”
The key to finding out anything is to ask questions. And I am never happy with one sentence answers. So I keep asking. “Oh? What did you do at recess?” And I am able to find out more from her that she would not have volunteered.
I also don’t allow certain answers; things I have discovered are every day answers, so we tossed them out as unacceptable. It doesn’t count if she says she saw her friends or her cousins. It also doesn’t count if she tells me what she had in her lunch box. I was there when it was fixed. She can tell me if she was in trouble or whether she had art class. I can ask questions to those and get more info. “What did you do in art class? And why were you in trouble?”
Then we get home and the homework begins. A glass of water and an after school snack is gathered together. I’m actually struggling with this part now, because the girls have put me on another diet and the snacks are not as rewarding as they were a week ago. Or as filling. Still we fix it and then she will work on her homework while I am working on a manuscript. She gets stuck, I pause and we work out some problems. Or I quiz her on her multiplication tables or her spelling words. She reads to me or I read to her. We keep going until the homework is done and she can go and play or her friends have rung the doorbell and my house is full of giggling girls. Well, it’s always full of giggling girls, but these are younger, the giggles are higher in pitch.
It’s about an hour to an hour and a half, Monday through Friday, August through May. It’s the routine. It’s also how parents can find out what is happening in their children’s lives. Questions that lead to answers that lead to more questions. Sometimes, the answers help us to help them, to guide them when they are having a hard time or struggling with something at school. Form your routines. Engage your children in conversation and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Nosy parents are the best parents.
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