Ask your parents about your childhood, why? I mean you already know it all, so what would be the point?
In fact, many would steer clear of the conversation, particularly if there is the risk of an embarrassing encounter being recounted.
And you know how parents almost always inadvertently end up narrating the tale of how we did something that was so cute and silly according to them, but which, by our standards today, is unimaginably stupid.
Think about all that and the question, “Why bother?” is indeed justified.
But, there are so many aspects and secrets of your life and even your relationship with your parents and your relationship with your spouse and children that these questions can help to uncover. Not convinced? Continue reading to know more….
Well, if it weren’t for those dang memories!
Here is the thing about memories – half of what you think you know actually did happen, and half did not. I kid you not folks! While it is easy to forget real memories, it is easier to recreate and remember false memories.
In fact, all human beings have true memories and false memories, which they believe to be true, trapped in their noggins. Of course, by now you are wondering- but why meddle with memories?
Simple, because they play a large role in the person that you are today. It is not just your actual experiences but also the memory of these experiences (whether true or false) that shape your personality, your habits, your attitude and your reactions.
Did somebody out there yell out, “Enough with the psychology lesson already?”
Alright, I won’t harp on the psychological benefits of this because that would take more than a few articles to discuss. But, here is what I would recommend you do, and I promise it will make for an interesting and enlightening conversation too…
If you have a memory of an incident that has been needling you, ask your parents about it. Who knows, you may be surprised at how things actually transpired vis à vis how you remember them. No, don’t go for the really dark, dank ones, you have shrinks and therapy for those. I am talking about the milder stuff.
For instance, I had heard my sister talking about how for one particular event, our mom did not let my sister wear her favourite dress, and that totally ruined the memory of the event for her. So, over one family brunch I decided to question my mom about it.
Turns out, my sis couldn’t wear the dress because the week before she had ruined it by getting too festive with it (think chocolate syrup and what not). And although she nearly scrubbed it to rags, mom could not restore the dress to its glory.
But, she knew how my sister loved that dress, so she did not tell her that it was ruined because she knew that would put her in a foul mood. Instead, she insisted that she wear another dress and that was that.
My sister swore that she had complete recollection of what had happened back then. But, it’s only when I narrated the turn of events to her that she remembered her day of regaling that had ruined her favourite dress.
I am sure by now you have a gist of what I am talking about here. But, if you are still stumped for good questions, you can start with these:
- If you thought your parents were especially strict with you as compared to your sibling, ask why?
- If you think that your parents sugar coated the facts at some point, ask for their reason?
- If you were absolutely not allowed to do something as a child or not allowed to eat something, ask your parents what made them keep that thing/act out of your spectrum?
- If you thought your mom loved/even liked your younger sibling more than you (Admit it already, I bet at least half the oldest kids have this one on their mind), find out if this was actually true or your parents had some other thoughts at the time.
Your kid could be your “mini-me”!
Your kids, even before they make a conscious effort to emulate you, bear a striking similarity to you. And no, I am not talking about looks here. I am talking about habits, likes and dislikes, their demeanour in general and even their growth milestones.
For example, I remember this time when a friend of mine was worried about why her super smart toddler (he blurted out his first word before he celebrated his first birthday, hence smart) could barely get himself to stand for 5 minutes without falling flat on his backside.
After numerous visits to all kinds of doctors that concluded in a diagnosis of “nuthin wrong with him”, she was left with her worries. So, as she poured out her panic, I asked her if she knew at what age she started to walk.
And whadya know, she had no clue. Because her parents were deceased, the information was no longer accessible. So, I told her to connect with a relative or even a friend of her parents’ who was around while she was a baby.
A few calls later, she had discovered that while she too was an early talker, it took her a good 4 years to walk without tumbling over. Apparently, her boy had decided to follow in his mother’s footstep, quite literally.
Your kid may/may not take after you, but it is good to know about your childhood days, habits and more if you plan on having children someday. Good questions to ask your parents would be:
- What did I like to eat as a baby?
- Was I a fussy eater and what was that one food item I could not stand?
- What was my favourite toy?
- How would you describe me as a baby?
- What was the one thing that you remember about me as an infant?
- How old was I when I blurted out my first word? What was it? (You may have heard this one)
- How clear was my speech as I began to talk?
Who taught me…. (Alphabets, numbers, first nursery rhyme)?
- What was my favourite bedtime story?
- When did I take my first wobbly step?
- When did I start walking around with ease?
Problems that went away, but could come back in the future!
Often some health problems get shrouded in mystery simply because we have no recollection of early symptoms showing up in our childhood. I will give you another example here…
I knew somebody who was very healthy and had a flourishing career as an airline pilot before she was very suddenly diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.
She was still in her twenties when this happened, so it goes without saying that her world came to an abrupt halt. Yes, hyperthyroidism is an autoimmune condition, but we were all wondering how come she just got it one day, no symptoms, no causes?
And while we were all reading up on it and trying to make sense of it, a senior from her family said that as a child, she would suddenly go from normal voice to so much hoarseness that you could barely hear her. It started suddenly, the bouts would be just as unexpected and then the condition subsided just as suddenly and without a trace.
Visits paediatricians to and the results of all possible tests brought back nothing. Then, after her fifth birthday, it all stopped and because the condition brought on no real discomfort, everybody was glad it went away and it was quickly forgotten.
The sudden voice change episodes might have been a portent of things to come. Of course it wouldn’t change her current diagnosis. But, I feel that getting a heads-up on the condition may have made her think twice about taking up a profession that places such a premium on medical fitness.
Above all, who’s to say that a condition/health problem that you experienced as a child won’t come back to haunt you or that it won’t raise its ugly head in the life of your kids.
If you ask me, I’d say you are better of informed than ignorant about such things. So, while you are fortunate enough to still be able to ask your parents about this, go ahead with questions such as:
- What injuries did I have as a child?
- Did I have a specific health concern as an infant/toddler?
- Was there anything about my health/growth milestones that concerned you?
- (For ladies who are all set to embrace motherhood) What was your pregnancy like when you were carrying me? (You’d be surprised at how many women have pregnancy experiences that are very similar to those of their moms).
- Did you think I would be (as a person or a professional….. example: be an extrovert or become a lawyer) when I grow up?
- What kind of child you’d say I was (naughty, shy, talkative, empathetic, etc)?
Some of those old memories can actually be precious, even today!
As we grow, we not only leave behind years and cities/towns but also memories. The very things that once mattered so much to us become irrelevant to the point that we forget all about them.
Hey, but that is what families are for – To relive all those happy and precious moments.
In my humble opinion, nothing can transport you from the pandemonium, the stress and the mundaneness of your present day life like reminiscing about or reliving (even if only briefly) a special moment from your childhood.
So, talk about it while you still can, because who knows what tomorrow holds (OK, I will lay off the macabre philosophy too). Here are a few questions to get you started:
- Do you remember that family vacation we had?
- What was my first birthday party like?
- How did I react when my sibling came along?
- What did you get me for my first birthday (parents may not remember the subsequent birthday gifts but that first birthday is a big milestone)?
- What was one funny incident you remember from my childhood?
- Do you remember who my best friend was when I was a kid?
- Take out a few pictures from the old family album, and ask where this was and what happened?
- What was my favourite thing to do as a kid?
- What was the naughtiest thing I ever did?
- Recount one thing that you did and still haven’t told your parents about it
- Today my favourite food is this, but what was it then?
- What was my first day at school like?
So, when was the last time you saw that twinkle in the eyes of your parents?
Let’s admit it, no matter how many candles went on last year’s birthday cake, to our parents we will always be their kids, even if they don’t treat us as such anymore (OK, there are time when all parents do go into the “mommy and daddy know best” mode, even when you have a good 40 years behind you).
If you are a parent, you will agree with me when I say that (unless something untoward has happened) the mere idea of talking about their kids brings a lot of joy to most parents. So, they will only be too happy to indulge you with the details. Ask about momentous and everyday events like:
- What were your thoughts when you held me for the first time?
- Was there one time when you were really angry with me for something I had done?
- Did you want to discuss something with me or tell me something when I was a kid, but thought best to wait till later?
- What was motherhood/fatherhood like for you?
- What did you want or wished for most for me/for all your kids)
- How did you know that you were ready to start a family and/or have me?
- What was that moment in my childhood when I hurt/frustrated you the most?
- Did I ever do something impulsive that really riled you up?
- What was your one pet peeve about me/my behaviour?
- What was the hardest part about being my parent or about me as I was growing up??
- Is there any incident/fact that changed or transformed your parenting style?
- Is there something that I still don’t know about you?
- Now that you know how I have turned out, would you pick a different name for me?
- If you could go back in time and change one thing from my childhood, what would it be?
And, I have saved the best for last….
Thus far, we only spoke about what you can get from those questions.
But those questions also promise to offer a lot to mom and dad. When you quiz your parents about your childhood, you inadvertently transport them back in time and make them relive their happy memories along with yours.
And whether young or old, everybody can use a bit of happiness, laughter and a few smiles in their life. Also, the mommy/daddy interview sessions are great to jog your parents’ memory, which is a fantastic way to keep those neurons healthy and firing.
So, don’t shy away, instead ask away. Who knows what you may discover about yourself and about your parents in the process?