Writing prompts for "D'Aulaire's Book of Mommy Myths"
February 16, 2017 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Kids seem to love stories about when their parents themselves were children. What stories do you tell when you don't actually remember much of your childhood?

Our five and seven year-old children are in a delightful stage of requesting stories and anecdotes from both parents about their own respective childhoods. While Mr. Brunette can deliver like Domino's on this, my remembrances of childhood past are foggy at best and unhappy at worst.

I want to be honest with my kids so I'm loathe to get too creative in inventing stories. I'm looking for "writing prompts" or specific questions that might jog memories or suggestions for archetypal childhood events.

Of note: the seven year-old is dealing with some mean girl nonsense at school and we are doing our best to role-play assertiveness with her, but she is seeking reassurance that grown ups have gone through (and still go through) situations like this and manage to work it out.

Thanks in advance, me-fites.
posted by thenewbrunette to Human Relations (23 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
A time my friends got my in trouble was...
The first time I broke a bone was...
A natural disaster (large or small) I remember was...
My (least) favorite relative was...
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:22 AM on February 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Something you found somewhere -- in a car, by the curb, in the garbage.
A secret hiding place.
An animal you met or saw. Not necessarily a pet. A pigeon. A pesky squirrel.
The first time you earned money that you got to spend yourself.
Something that broke that you figured out how to fix.
The first time you heard a foreign language.
posted by nohattip at 10:53 AM on February 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

These.are.perfect!!! Thanks so much - please keep 'em coming.
posted by thenewbrunette at 11:02 AM on February 16, 2017

Some prompts that do not depend on you living in contact with the outdoors (I have never broken a bone, had no hiding places, did not come in contact with animals until my piano teacher's cats):

I was known for destroying...
The behavior that consterned my parents the most was...
One time I was useful was...
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:03 AM on February 16, 2017

How were your birthdays celebrated? Did you have a cake? Did you have parties where your friends were invited? Do you remember any specific birthday?

How did your family celebrate Christmas? Did you have a tree? Did you hang stockings? Did you ever believe in Santa? Do you remember any of your presents? (Or if your family didn't celebrate Christmas, think about some holiday that was important. If no holiday was a big deal, that's a story too.)

Did your family ever go on vacation? Where? If they never did, that's a story too.

Did any of your relatives live near your family? Did you see them often? Did you like or dislike any of them? Do you know any of your cousins? Were your grandparents part of your life?

What kind of car did your family have? Bought used or new?

What kind of rules did you live under? Did you have a bedtime? Could you watch TV whenever you wanted? Could you refuse to eat what was served at dinner? Could you roam freely outside? Could you swear?

Did you like school? How did you get to school? Bus? Bike? Walk? Driven by parents? What did you do on the playground at recess? Did you bring a bag lunch or buy lunch at school?

Did you have friends at school? Did you have friends in your neighborhood? When you weren't at school did you spend most of your time alone, with siblings, or with friends?

Did you live in a neighborhood where you could walk or ride your bike to friends' houses, stores, or parks? Or way out in the country?

Did you ever go to church or Sunday school? Did you believe in God? Did your parents? Did you pray?

Do you remember any favorite TV shows, movies or books?

Did you ever have any pets? Or wish you did?

Did you have any kind of lessons or participate in any sports? If you didn't, that's a story too.

How much did you and your family think about money? Did you know when your parents' payday was, and were there times you had to wait until payday to get things? Did you feel richer or poorer than average?

Did you have your own room? If not, who did you share with? What was in your room?
posted by Redstart at 11:06 AM on February 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have much the same problem, and I started telling the kids stories about them as though they were mine -- like, stories from the previous day. That was so popular that the 14-year-old still asks me patently leading questions hoping I'll do it again.
posted by Etrigan at 11:07 AM on February 16, 2017 [8 favorites]

  • did you believe in the tooth fairy?
  • that time you swallowed a tooth/dropped it down the sink and couldn't put it under your pillow
  • what it felt like to get braces/going to the dentist
  • did you leave cookies for Santa?
  • did you dye Easter eggs?
  • what was your favorite holiday ornament?
  • what was your best Halloween costume?
  • did you have any family traditions (like the birthday kid gets to pick what's for dinner or you always had sweet rolls for breakfast on Valentine's day)
  • favorite toys or books
  • did you like the slide/merry-go-round/swings at the playground
  • did you have a best friend
  • did you have a tree house/fort/secret hiding spot?
  • did you play on a team?
  • what did it feel like to win or lose?
  • did you have to practice even when you didn't want to?
  • favorite pet(s)
  • dealing with loss/death of a pet
  • did you do science fair projects?
  • getting in trouble (coloring on desk, talking too loud, didn't turn in homework)
  • favorite teacher or subject
  • trying out for choir or a play
  • when I grew up I wanted to be a ___
  • I always wanted to travel to ____
  • I used to pretend I could fly/become invisible/walk on the ceiling/____
  • did you get an allowance? what did you do with it?

posted by belladonna at 11:10 AM on February 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

When you bought candy for yourself, where did you buy it? What sort did you like to buy?

Your favorite game you liked to play when you went to someone else's house

What toy you really wanted but could never convince your parents to get you

Bad babysitters - did you ever had one? Why were they bad

Times you were so sick you had to miss school / had to go to the hospital

Your favorite costume to dress up as
posted by Mchelly at 11:11 AM on February 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Any public pants-peeing is a MUST TELL.
posted by Ausamor at 11:20 AM on February 16, 2017

My friend has a good one -- fell down in the school play and her skirt came off, that kind of thing. It's a time she did something/something happened to her that was really embarrassing, and how she felt in the moment, everyone looking and her just wanting to disappear.

Her daughter loves hearing this story, going over it again and again. I think it's the "worst case scenario, but it was okay in the end" aspect that's attractive.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:31 AM on February 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

What do your kids regularly do, see, or have that you didn't as a kid? What things were part of your life that they have no experience with? Take any moment of your kid's day as a starting point and think about what things are in that picture that weren't part of your childhood.
posted by Redstart at 11:33 AM on February 16, 2017

I guess it's all in the theme of "something bad happened, and I survived" -- how it sucks in the moment and either you do some clever thing to overcome, or you figure out a way to just muddle through -

My first day of school
My big recital/big game/etc
My worst birthday ever

I was really scared when

A time my friend was mean to me

A time I was mean to a friend

A time when I was really disappointed

A time when I was really angry at someone in my family

A time when something really unfair happened

A time when I felt really left out

A time when I felt really misunderstood

A time when I lied
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:40 AM on February 16, 2017

A time I got lost

A time my parents left me somewhere accidentally
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:45 AM on February 16, 2017

Do family dynamics make it workable to hassle your parents, or any siblings, for their memories of your childhood? I've got a bunch of childhood stories that I don't remember myself, and I only know because I've been told about them.
posted by LizardBreath at 12:06 PM on February 16, 2017

You could tell them about relatives or neighbors you knew who are now dead, especially if they died in old age. I had a great-grandmother and a grandfather who died a few years before my kids were born and I used to tell my kids about these two wonderful people.
posted by mareli at 12:31 PM on February 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I loved when my dad told me about his first day(s) of school, his pets, the time he went home instead of to the principal's office (he's so straight-laced it was funny to imagine him breaking the rules like that), the girl who had a crush on him, what he wanted to be when he grew up, what his high school was like, what his brothers and sisters were like (imagining my aunts and uncles as kids was fun), his first memory, his first job, his first apartment (total 1970s bachelor pad), how he met my mom and their first date (blind date), his cars (that one may not be applicable to you but the rest might be).
posted by hydrobatidae at 12:38 PM on February 16, 2017

Also, I bet you could talk about technological changes - my dad told us about the time before power steering, but you could probably use ATMs or cell phones or dish washers.
posted by hydrobatidae at 12:40 PM on February 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Some of my favorite childhood stories from my parents:

Where were you when [major historical event] happened and what was it like? (For my Baby Boomer parents, the appropriate events were JFK assassination, John Lennon assassination, I Have a Dream/civil rights movement/MLK Jr. assassination, moon landing, Vietnam. For you, maybe 9/11, Obama election, Iraq War, financial crisis?)
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up and why?
What was your favorite childhood pet? Did you ever get attacked by an animal?
What's a time you got into big trouble?
What's a secret you kept from your parents?
What was your first job? What was a normal day like at work? What were your favorite and least favorite things?
Who was your best friend as a kid? What kinds of games did you play? What's a time when you got REALLY MAD at them?
Who was your first crush?

Seconding the public pants-peeing story and would add ANYTHING involving pee/poop/barf/other body fluids.
posted by capricorn at 1:22 PM on February 16, 2017

Where are some places you used to go that no longer exist?
What was your favorite school field trip?
What was the dumbest rule you had to follow in school?
What books did you love? Did you ever do something because a character in a book did it? (Example: slam books after reading Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great) How did it turn out?
Did you have a favorite celebrity? Did you write them a fan letter? Did they write back?
Did you pass notes in class? To whom? What did you write about? Did they ever get intercepted?
What's the most embarrassing thing you did in front of someone you had a crush on?
What was the biggest lie you told as a kid? Did you get caught in it?
What sort of crazy things did you believe as a kid that you now know aren't true?
posted by SisterHavana at 2:59 PM on February 16, 2017

My kids love stories about life before the Internet, smartphones, ect....
posted by Valancy Rachel at 4:55 PM on February 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I remember that I used to love hearing stories about people in my parents' lives when they were young framed around a specific personality trait they showed at one point or another. "Brave Nana" going to live in a new country when she was 14. "Excited Aunt Jenny" seeing the Beatles when she was 13 and crying and screaming she was so happy. My mum's friend "Nervous Mary" about age 12 who had never been more than 10ks from home before then had to go to a sports competition right across the other side of the city and got car sick on the trip there but it all worked out. "Mean Uncle Bill" who put my dad on a wild horse to ride when they were young because he thought it would be funny.

Picking a personality trait and then hoping a story prompt will kick in from there might help.
posted by hotcoroner at 5:44 PM on February 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Here are some of the prompts from one of those "story of my life" books I gave my grandfather, the questions about life from birth through high school graduation:

One of my mom's/dad's traits I admired was:
When I was growing up, whenever I had trouble with mom/dad, it was usually about:
The worst trouble I ever got in as a child was for:
This is how we ate dinner as a family:
My parents felt strongly about passing on these lessons:
The funniest person in my family was:
A present (or presents) that I remember really well was:
My first trip to the hospital was:
My most memorable toy was:
This is how we celebrated Christmas (or similar holiday):
Here's what I remember about my grandparents:
My favorite radio/TV/computer programs growing up were:
After school I would:
Childhood games we played were:
These were my pets growing up:
My best childhood friend:
A teacher who had a particular influence on me:
My biggest childhood crush was on:
A memorable adolescent sweetheart: (my grandfather wrote about the girl who taught him to polka, one of his notable life skills for 90 years, who was a "sweater girl" ... girls who wore form-fitting sweaters over boob-emphasizing bras, it was SHOCKING in the era)
Something I did that was forbidden and my parents didn't know about: (grandpa: going to burlesque shows at 14!)
My favorite school subject/the subject that gave me the most trouble:
How did you get to school every morning?
When I was young I wanted to be a _____ when I grew up.
I had these chores when I was young:
I remember this about my mother's/father's work/responsibilities:
My first paid job was:
My favorite music growing up:
Some of my favorite Hollywood actors/actresses and movies:
I remember when these technological advances were made:
My parents felt this way about politics:
The first time I left my hometown/home state was:
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:53 PM on February 16, 2017

Really, best answers all around. I'm putting these into a spreadsheet and numbering each question, then planning to make my kids pick a number at random a few times a week and then I'll answer one of the questions. Memail me if you'd like me to share it with you via GoogleDocs!

Thanks, everyone!
posted by thenewbrunette at 11:59 AM on February 17, 2017

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