Who were we back then?
October 20, 2011 4:49 AM   Subscribe

At the end of December, my wife is due to give birth to our first child. At the end of November I would like to record a series of interviews between me and my wife in order to capture a snapshot of our lives before we fall off the cliff into parenthood. I want to be able to look back at the video in a few decades time and for the answers we gave to transport us back to who we were, how we thought, and how we lived before we had children. What were our fears, hopes, dreams? What questions should we ask each other to reveal the kind of responses I'm hoping for?

I only know my parents as parents. I'm fascinated to know how they would have felt in the period leading up to the birth of my older brother. Perhaps one day my offspring will feel the same, and if so, I'd like this video to reveal it to them.
posted by chill to Human Relations (18 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
What is your favorite thing to do with me?

On a Saturday and Sunday (or insert day off from work) morning, what is your routine? Do you have a routine?

What is your favorite food to eat/restaurant when you go out?

What is your favorite shirt, pants, jacket, shoes, hat, scarf, etc?

What shows are your favorite shows to watch?

What kind of movies do you like?

List ten of your favorite bands/songs.

What are your favorite websites?

What is your least favorite smell?

Who is your favorite person and why?

What is your favorite device (phone, computer, etc) and why?

What is your least favorite thing to do?

What is/was your favorite toy?

I'm sure I will have more, but I have to get back to work! Congratulations and have fun!!
posted by Yellow at 5:25 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have seen pictures of my parents in their married without children days and I too long to know a little bit more about them.

Even with the hindsight of 18 years, I can say that I know no definitive question to ask. I would tell stories. Hey honey, tell future chills about our honeymoon. Do you remember the time we went to Ohio, got a flat and stopped at that crazy bar? Tell the story about meeting my parents for the first time, etc
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:27 AM on October 20, 2011

You may find the StoryCorps question generator and great questions list useful.
posted by kitkatcathy at 5:47 AM on October 20, 2011 [6 favorites]

Any question that establishes and reinforces the notion that you are actual human beings and not Parental Control Units:

* what's the craziest/dumbest/most spontaneous thing you've done?

* how has your view of your parents changed over time?

* what's your fondest travel memory?

* how did you two meet? how did you know that the other one was the right one?

* what do you wish you could have told your parents but never did?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:47 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I noticed that after my best friend had a kid, she has said a lot of things to me like, "He will never know about any of the stuff I did as a teenager....or college student....or single lady."

Maybe you could document some of your best party stories, worst dates, best dates, closest calls with the law, or stupidest acts...the stuff you don't tell your parents. Make that the parent confessional that you keep locked up, only for your kids to see when they have kids of their own.

My parents got married in 1969, and for years they kept to their story of completely boring early years with no drugs, alcohol, or crazy parties. It's only now that I'm an adult that they've given some glimpses into a more sordid past (skinnydipping, all night card games with interesting stakes, etc). It would be great to see the 30 year old versions of them (pre-children) recount those stories.

On a related note, an older relative recently died. This relative was never married. When my aunt was going through her things, she found a huge bundle of love letters that told some interesting stories. When my mom heard about this, she burned the letters she & my father wrote each other before they were married. She said they were personal & private, and she didn't want me or my sister discovering them after they were gone (or any random person who could go through their trash). It makes me really sad that my mom burned them, because I view those letters as part of my story too--how I got to be here. The story of how you fell in love with your wife is going to mean a lot to your kids one day.
posted by Kronur at 5:57 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

It makes me really sad that my mom burned them

There is no doubt a fair amount of sexual content in there if she felt the need to burn them. I know I wouldn't be comfortable with my children reading the love letters my husband and I exchanged before we were married.
posted by Dragonness at 6:43 AM on October 20, 2011

OMG please ask each other how much you think having a child will change your social life, your friendships and your relationship with your existing friends.

You know, for the future LOLs.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:53 AM on October 20, 2011

I think it would be great to have a mix of the normal and the highlights. Basically the routine will involve questions abot how much time and how much money you spend on various things, because those are solid indicators of where your values and expectations are, and the highlights will involve telling stories about one-off occasions.

So, what's the routine for a day: a morning, a work day, right after work, dinner, evening, bedtime. (things that will be of interest later: how much time you spend on fashion, on leisure internetting, how often do you work late, do you go to the gym regularly, how long does it take to cook and eat a regular dinner, do you go out/stay in on a weeknight) Establish your time allocation.

What's the routine for a week: Mondays to yoga class and A comes over afterward, Tuesdays at home, Wednesdays at the pub for trivia with B and C, Thursdays to dance class, Fridays work happy hour, Saturday mornings gardening, etc. Establish your hobbies, your friends, your social circle.

What's the routine for various holidays: Thanksgiving with the parents (because they'll never come to you, you're just a kid), party/mass/fondue night/It's a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve and sleep till 5am/noon on Christmas Day, celebrate birthdays or no? It'll be fascinating for a kid to think about the long-standing "traditions" they've been doing as long as they can remember that you actually never tried until they were 2 years old.

And then, the highlights: As in other comments, tell stories about the "wild times" of your young-adulthood. parties, college, dates, excitement, etc. But don't forget to tell stories about your childhoods, your parents, things you did when you were ten, etc. What was a family vacation like? What did you get in trouble for? What was school like? What did you think you'd do when you grew up? What's your favorite moment with your mom/dad? It's possible that for one reason or another your child won't know their grandparents very well (distance, dementia, family drama, death from illness or old age) and mixing their stories into your stories is a great idea.
posted by aimedwander at 7:15 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Where did you live as a child; what were your parents and siblings like?
What was your first job, where did you go to college, how did you decide on that college and major?
Where did you meet, what was your first date, when did you decide to get married? Where did you go on your honeymoon?
Tell me about your first home together.
Tell me about places you traveled to.
You named me x; was I named after anyone, and what other names for me had you considered? What if I'd been a boy instead of a girl or vice versa?
posted by easily confused at 7:55 AM on October 20, 2011

Se the camera on a tripod and shoot the two of you having a conversation. You playing Barbara Walters with her will not work out the way you want. Just talk to each other, look at old photos together, etc.. Talk to the baby.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:05 AM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

If this is partly for your kids, in addition to the above suggestions, I would talk about how you feel about having your first child, how you decided, how the family reacted when you told them, what you've been doing to prepare, how the pregnancy is going... all the stuff your future child will be excited to hear one day.
posted by chickenmagazine at 8:21 AM on October 20, 2011

What has been the single best day in your life so far? Worst day?

What one thing did your Mom/Dad/Parents do or say that you have always sworn you won't do with your own kids?

What was the worst thing you got in trouble for as a kid? What was the worst thing you did that you got away with?

If you could go back in time and talk to 18 year-old you, what advice would you give to yourself?

Favorite book you remember reading/having read to you as a kid?

What have you done that made your parents most proud? (If they are living) Are they proud of who you are today? (If they are no longer alive) Do you think they would be proud of what you have done with your life?

Some of these will make you tear up when you watch this later, some will make you laugh because you will be a different person then, but they are all great for discussion at this time in your life.
posted by misha at 8:24 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and of course!

How did the two of you meet? How did you know, 'This is the person I want to have my children with'?
posted by misha at 8:26 AM on October 20, 2011

and why?

I think this is the most important part of the questions you already listed. Asking what your favorite tv show is will only date you in the future. Asking why will really get at who you are.
What are your favorite tv shows?
Umm, Mad Men I guess. Family Guy. I hate to admit it, but Dancing With the Stars.

That's an odd list. Why those?
Well, I like the set pieces and atmosphere of Mad Men, but I also like the depth of the characters, the intelligence of the dialogue. Family Guy is just funny and completely unafraid of who it may offend, which I have to respect. And Dancing With the Stars...I don't really know. Maybe because I can't dance to save my life and these guys are good. Well, the professional dancers are, some of the celebs have to work at, which I also like, because it's interesting seeing these well-known people out of their element and struggling with something. It humanizes them.
If questions are bullets, follow-up questions are heat-seeking missiles. They burrow down and home in on the source. They get at parts of yourself you weren't even aware of. I think knowing why you like the shows/movies/restaurants you do would be much more illustrative of who you are than the facts themselves.

Please forgive me for pretending to know your tastes.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:30 AM on October 20, 2011

Brilliant, some really great ideas here, thanks so much every one of you.
posted by chill at 10:02 AM on October 20, 2011

If I were doing this for my future child (which may or may not be in the making!), I would talk about family members my children will never know. While it's sad, I think it would be important for my children to know about the people before us, who made my husband and I, and so on and so forth. Of course, all the other things are great too! Family history is a good thing to throw in there, good or bad. Great question!
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 10:33 AM on October 20, 2011

What?! Are you crazy??!! You had no life before kids. Period. Sad but true. I didn't give a flying flip about what my parents did before I was born, and my daughter definitely doesn't care what happened to me. The sad thing is that for the most part no one really cares until after you're dead and then they wished they'd asked everything. However, my grandmother had a "Grandmother Book". It has all kinds of questions about her and her life for her to fill out. Thank goodness she did. I bought one for my mother and unfortunately she never filled it out. I think you can still find them in basic bookstores. They have questions like: Where did you live as a child? What did your parents do? What was your favorite toy? Where did you meet your spouse? etc., Oh, and write things down, don't do it all on tape. Electronic media does not last. Paper does.
posted by PJMoore at 10:53 AM on October 20, 2011

In your original question, you said that these recordings were for YOU to look back on, not necessarily as a record for your kids. So, my answer is within that context.

People say that when you have kids, everything changes. So, what changed for me? My perspective on what's important and what matters in life. So ask questions about that.

- What/who is the most important thing in your life?
- Is there anyone you would die for?
- What will be your legacy to the world?

Once your become a parent, the answer to these questions is, "My kids". It would be interesting to look back and see what the answer is pre-parenthood.
posted by eleslie at 5:18 PM on October 20, 2011

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