Why knowing your story can help your children find their way.
My 13-year-old son and I were driving to soccer practice. We were talking about the team and the season. I think he was playing a game on my phone (most likely, Clash of Clans) so his contribution to the conversation was pretty much single words. Then he looks up and asks, “What’s it like in university?”.
It’s a reasonable question. He has a few years before he goes, if it is the best option for him, but education is important to us so the question didn’t surprise me that much. But we hadn’t really talked about it much and there are many layers to that onion—relationships, education, experimentation, finding limits, making mistakes, achieving success. There is a lot that goes on there. We didn’t get far into the topic before reaching the field.
The onion analogy applies to almost any aspect of life, really. Once you start asking questions, like a little kid incessantly asking “Why?”, you can get pretty deep, pretty quickly. When posed with a question from our kids, the temptation is to keep the response at those first, easy layers.
My son’s question got me thinking about the conversations between parents and children. There are the day-to-day discussions about their school, friends, music etc. Sometimes a situation comes up and we need to talk through how to deal with it, or praise them for how they handled it, or point out how they could have handled it better.
But, how much do we really communicate? How often do we slow down and truly share? How much do kids know about us and our story? What are the most important things we have learned?
You may think that your kids can answer quite a few of these already. You see each other often or you talk frequently. They must have learned something about you. As a little test, how many of these questions can you answer about your parents?
The List of 50 Things.
These are roughly organized by themes. Obviously, it can’t be an exhaustive list and not all of these questions apply to everybody’s situation. Some questions are easy, and some are hard. Some could be answered quickly, and some could be the subject of an entire book. Some topics you may consider off limits and not appropriate.
If you don’t like these, I’m quite sure you can come up with your own list of interesting things that your kids would want, or need, to know.
1. Who was your best childhood friend and why did you like them so much?
2. What was the most trouble you got into as a kid and why?
3. What is your earliest memory?
4. What kind of relationship did your parents have?
5. How did their breakup affect you? (if they broke up)
6. What childhood moments stand out as the happiest for you?
7. What was your favorite thing to do when you were their age?
8. Were you comfortable or nervous around other people when you were young?
9. What teachers did you like the best and what made them special?
10. Are you in contact with any friends from your childhood?
11. Was high school fun for you?
12. Were you one of the cool kids, or did you feel like an outsider?
13. Did you ever drink or do drugs?
14. Did you ever drink and drive?
15. Did you ever get into a car accident? How did it happen?
16. Did you go to the prom? What are the details?
17. What was your first day of college like?
18. Why did you decide to go to that college? Would you recommend it?
19. Did you live on campus or off campus?
20. What did you like / hate about your roommates?
21. What classes did you take?
22. Why did you choose those ones? What were your favorites?
23. Did you ever cheat on an exam or paper?
25. Based on your experience, should I even go to college?
26. Other than the classes, what lessons did you learn in college about life?
27.What did you do in college that you are most embarrassed about?
28. Did you have a job when you were younger? What was it like?
29. Did you get along with all your co-workers?
30. Describe what your boss was like?
31. What would change about working when you were younger?
32. What was your first job out of college? Did you like it?
33. What was the best and worst things about it? Why?
34. How did your college degree apply to that job?
35. What other jobs have you had since then?
36. Which ones did you love / hate and why?
37. What have you learned about working with other people?
38. What should I know about being successful in a job?
39. Should I start my own business?
40. What have you learned about being an entrepreneur?
41. Who was your biggest crush when you were young? Did they know?
42. Who was the first person you kissed and what was the circumstance?
43. Did you have a real girlfriend / boyfriend in high school?
44. What kind of stuff did you do together?
45. What is the biggest relationship mistake you have made?
46. What have you learned about dating?
47. What do I need to know to have successful relationships with friends?
48. What do I need to know to have a happy marriage or relationship?
49. How did you get along with your parents when you were young? Is it different now?
50. What would you change about your relationship with your son or daughter?
That last one made me think a bit. Maybe the change is to talk more, and to talk more deeply, and perhaps this list is a way to get started.
So, how many questions could your kids answer? If you are like me, there are many (many) that haven’t been discussed. Some topics may require more maturity to explore fully (they are ages 12 and 13), but there are many that we could be talking about. There is a tendency, I believe, to assume that these questions will get answered somehow over time. What if they don’t?
Don’t keep your life a secret.
As we make our way through life, I think we can lose perspective on the breadth and depth of our many experiences. We lose perspective on the impacts they had on us and the value they can be to others. All those failures and triumphs shouldn’t be a secret from our children. Those lessons were hard work.
This article was originally published on blog.ThoseILove.com.
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