i have questions! queries! pooooosers!
January 26, 2012 5:44 PM   Subscribe

dear mom: what was it like to be you?

i have this idea that i've wanted to do for a while: something like a listography book, but geared toward my mom (as the listography books have some questions i have NO desire to ask my mom), wherein i ask her a bunch of questions (what was high school like for you, how old were you when you got your first car, what happened the day i/my brother was born, etc.), and keep them all in one place. i also wanted to do this with my father, but our relationship was tenuous, and he passed away quite suddenly before i could (which i regret immensely). obviously, while i would love it if my mom were to live forever, we're humans, and that's not going to happen, so i'd like to do this sooner rather than later. i may also make one for my grandmother to work on while she's still around.

someday, i want to pass this on to my nephews. i realize that i could buy a book of generic questions, but i thought i'd query the hivemind first, since you generally have better ideas anyway: what should i ask my mom? what have you always wanted to ask your parents? more adult-based questions are okay (but preferably nothing about sex, for more reasons than i can count), i would just put them in a separate notebook for when my nephews are older.

posted by koroshiya to Human Relations (25 answers total) 81 users marked this as a favorite
Tell me about your first boyfriend?
Which pet did you always want, but never get?
What should I know about being your age?
posted by runningwithscissors at 5:48 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

What was your most embarassing moment?
Which years do you consider your best years? Your worst years?
Which was the most important day of your life?
What's your earliest memory?
What games did you like to play as a kid?
What's the meaning of life?
How has your town changed in your lifetime?
posted by eleanna at 5:52 PM on January 26, 2012

How do you make decisions?
How have your values changed?
What does love feel like?
posted by thewestinggame at 5:55 PM on January 26, 2012

What did you do/think during the Civil Rights movement?
The womens' rights movement?
Of the presidents of your teens and 20s?
posted by Miko at 5:55 PM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

What did you want to be when you grew up?
How did you imagine your life would turn out? How was it different?
Who were important people in your life when you were a kid? (These might be relatives who died before you knew them, or neighbours or teachers, or anyone.)
What do you think is the change in the world during your lifetime that has made the most difference to your everyday life?
posted by lollusc at 6:01 PM on January 26, 2012

I've been thinking about this too, since my parents just became grandparents. We ended up getting the most open ended and least twee book we could find in the net for them, mostly because it's hard to get them to talk about deep stuff and we wanted something tangible to give them and later to let our kid(s?) read. I mostly came into the thread to say this though - don't interview your mom like her life is over! A lot of the questions that come up in things like this are worded as if the person has finished their life, but unless you're literally transcribing this on their deathbed, it isn't so. I know that becoming the oldest generation in our family is making my parents think more about mortality and I'm trying to be conscious of not adding to that as I seek to know them better as adults. They are only 60, it's likely they have many huge life events and memories to come.
posted by crabintheocean at 6:03 PM on January 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

What would you tell your 10-year-old self?
What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
What would you tell your 30-year-old self?
What would you tell your 40-year-old self?
Describe your ideal day.
What was your favorite television program when you were in grade school?
Describe something that you felt strongly about when you were in high school, but that you changed your mind about over time, and what changed for you.
Did you rebel against your parents? How?

Also lots of blank pages at the back where you ask her to write anything she wants to write about.
posted by headnsouth at 6:15 PM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, good reminder. I've wanted to do this for my daughter for years. StoryCorps has a list of great questions here.

Hope this helps!
posted by Space Kitty at 6:16 PM on January 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

How did you and dad meet? What attracted you to him? (When my dad died, I found out my mom was attracted to him because he was a "bad boy". I never would have guessed!)

What's on your "bucket list"?

What thing have you done that was the most fun you've ever had, so far?
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:22 PM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Describe the loneliest time in your life. How did you overcome that feeling/sense of loneliness?
posted by livinglearning at 6:49 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

How did you celebrate Holiday X? (There are of course many possible X's here).

If you could ask *your* mom a question, what would it be? Your dad? (I suppose this is most relevant if your grandfolk are no longer around, but it might be interesting anyhow!)
posted by nat at 6:51 PM on January 26, 2012

What was your favorite thing to wear when you were 10?
What was your favorite thing to wear when you were 15?
What was your favorite thing to wear when you were 30?
What is your favorite thing to wear?
posted by sophieblue at 6:55 PM on January 26, 2012

What were your favorite fads when you were in grade school? In high school? In college?
What did you have on your bedroom walls?
posted by SisterHavana at 7:07 PM on January 26, 2012

What is your happiest memory, excluding wedding day, birth of children, etc.?

What do you regret doing?

What do you regret not doing?

What are you the most glad that you did?
posted by elizeh at 7:24 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have nothing to add to the questions above, but can I just say the question in the headline of your post stopped me in my tracks. I don't think I've thought about how my mom would answer this question nearly enough, let alone asked her. A real oversight. Thanks.
posted by Noon Under the Trees at 8:32 PM on January 26, 2012

I think I'm in the minority here, but as "Mom" I would not necessarily welcome being approached with this project. My grown daughter asks me questions now and then, and sometimes it's fun to answer them and sometimes it is very much not fun. And some days I'm more up for it than others. But really, questions about regrets, and what you would have liked to ask your parents, and what you did and how you were as a kid -- there are emotional landmines here, folks. Take some care.

It's different if Mom is writing her memories; lots of Senior Centers have groups and classes that help with this. At the very least, I suggest that the younger person starts out with a memory of their own: "I remember how scared I was of being sent to the principal's office when I was in grade school. Did that happen much when you were in school?" It's gives Mom more room to talk about what she's comfortable with, and it seems more like a conversation than a police interrogation.
posted by kestralwing at 9:32 PM on January 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

How did you feel about becoming a mom?
Did anyone help you (and Dad?) when you were a young couple just starting out?
What was the first house you and Dad lived in like?
What town were you born in and how many times did you move and where?
If you had it to do all over again, what would you do?
posted by Lynsey at 9:35 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: i am really liking the answers so far, and i'll wait to resolve it to see if i can get a few more. thanks, everyone!

kestralwing, i have told her that i would like to do something like this, and she is totally cool with it - i also told her that she can skip any questions that she's not comfortable with answering (and i can substitute one she's okay with), and she can stop doing the answering at any time. i also didn't give her a time frame - she can work on it as long as she wants, as soon as i'm done putting it together.

crabintheocean: which book was it?
posted by koroshiya at 10:32 PM on January 26, 2012

What was the best Christmas present you ever got as a kid?
What was your favorite vacation?
What was your least favorite class in high school?
How did you feel about the Vietnam war?
posted by drlith at 3:39 AM on January 27, 2012

Was I planned?
Who do you love more, me or my brother?
No, really. If you could only save one of us, which one would you save?
posted by chickenmagazine at 8:18 AM on January 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: heh. chickenmagazine, i did totally think about that. but i already know she'd totally save me first. right? RIGHT?
posted by koroshiya at 10:40 AM on January 27, 2012

What was the bravest thing you ever did?
What was your most difficult experience with death/grief, and how did you cope?
What did you learn in the course of becoming an adult decades earlier that might be difficult/impossible for people to learn now?
What would you like me to never ever tell your grandchildren/great-grandchildren about you? Yeah, it's for blackmail.
posted by griselda at 11:47 AM on January 27, 2012

What was your toughest moment when trying to raise us kids?

If you were going to die tomorrow, would there be anything that you would regret not having talked about with me before you were gone?

Ask to describe what she was doing at some pivotal moment (when JFK died, on 9/11)

p.s. consider doing this interview on video and making digital copies. Your nephews would probably be even more thrilled to see her giving the answers to these questions using her own voice, intonation, mannerisms, and idiosyncratic way of storytelling.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:00 PM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: all great questions. thanks, everyone!
posted by koroshiya at 10:26 PM on January 29, 2012

Sorry, I just now saw this again, it was this one: Memories for my Grandchild. It's basic, but it's nice looking, and as atheist gay moms, it was pretty inoffensive and suitable for us - unlike many of the family books out there.
posted by crabintheocean at 4:51 PM on January 30, 2012

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