You know the genre of superhero movie in which the protagonist starts out as a normal person and then only gradually discovers that she is descended from a long line of superhero badasses with special powers? I feel like every parent, at some point in parenthood, is the main character in exactly this kind of movie. Find out what the low points were for mom and/or dad. And find out how they stuck it out to raise you so damn well. It will give you ideas if you’re a parent yourself or at the very least it will give you a new appreciation of your own folks. Good parents truly are heroes.
Continue reading Can you tell me about one particularly low moment you had while raising me? How did you get through it?
My whole first name is “Rafael Carlo.” Embarrassingly, I didn’t actually know this until I was 5 years old. I’d always just gone by “Carlo” and I still do today. It turns out my parents picked “Rafael” because it was a family name in the Philippines where both of them grew up. Part of my dad’s name is “Rafael” and my great uncle’s name was the same. But when my mom found out that Americans might pronounce the name instead of the more Spanish sounding , she made sure to hedge with a second name that could only be pronounced one way. And I became “Carlo.” I like this question because it can bring out a lot about culture, about family, and about what your parents hoped for you when you were just starting out in the world. Continue reading How did you choose my name?
Tim Urban over at the Wait Buy Why blog is a hilarious genius. (He’s also rather profane. So click over only if you don’t mind an F-bomb or three.) Tim wrote an absolute mind trip of a post called “Your Life In Weeks.” It’s a visualization of how much time we actually have on the earth to do what we value. And then in an arguably EVEN MORE shocking follow-up post called “The Tail End,” Tim drops some serious truth on us about the difference between life activities that are evenly distributed and those that are not. When it comes to number of winters he has left, Tim has plenty because there’s one every year and there has only ever been one a year. But when it comes to relationships, Tim’s stats tell a very different story:
“When you look at that reality, you realize that despite not being at the end of your life, you may very well be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important people in your life. If I lay out the total days I’ll ever spend with each of my parents—assuming I’m as lucky as can be—this becomes starkly clear. It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end. It’s a similar story with my two sisters. After living in a house with them for 10 and 13 years respectively, I now live across the country from both of them and spend maybe 15 days with each of them a year. Hopefully, that leaves us with about 15% of our total hangout time left.”
So, back to the question. “When are we getting together next?” Ask your siblings. Ask your parents. Ask your closest friends. AND THEN PUT SOMETHING ON THE CALENDAR. Otherwise, it just won’t happen. What could be more important? Seriously? Continue reading When are we getting together next?
Insofar as other people are always a bit alien to you (family included — maybe family ESPECIALLY) asking this question sort of turns you into an astronaut exploring a crater on a nearby planet. By walking around in the crater, you learn more about that planet but you also learn more about what OTHER BODY bumped into it right there at that site. I can’t help but see family as exactly that: a bunch of foreign bodies all brought into each other’s orbits, denting one another, shaping one another, launching one another on very particular paths – sometimes intended and sometimes not. Continue reading Is there anything about how your parents raised you that you tried not to repeat when you became a parent?
The answers to this question end up being an awesome mix of funny responses and tender ones. My own mom picked the words, “nurturing,” “respect,” and “independence.” A friend’s mom picked the following 3 to describe her parenting philosophy: “I don’t know.” Haha. Parenting must be one of the hardest jobs in the whole world. This question can help you understand your parent(s), understand your upbringing, and give you some ideas (should you be – or become – a parent yourself). Continue reading What 3 words would you say represented your approach to parenting and why?
I don’t have any kids yet. At my age, my dad already had 2. When I stop to think about that it doesn’t take me long to start wondering, “Holy shnikeys, what the heck was pops thinking around that time?” (He’d had this wild high school and young adult life so for it to change so dramatically as he started a family…it just makes me wonder.) I’ve got a phone call coming up with my parents later today. I’m gonna ask him. I’ll let you know what the response is.
Continue reading What do you remember about when each of us kids was born?
This is a wide open question. And a deep one! I wouldn’t recommend opening with this. But if you’ve already asked a few other questions from the “Ask Your Parent” list, give this one a go. You’ll gain some serious wisdom and your parent will feel valued in a way that is just impossible for a greeting card or random birthday gift to achieve. (And if you’re thinking that asking these kinds of questions is weird and touchy-feely and that you have plenty of time with your parents, let the hilarious Tim Urban over at WaitButWhy change your calculus.) Continue reading What three events most shaped your life? Why?
For some people, there was a particular moment or interaction when they knew what career field they’d want to enter. For others, they ended up where they are gradually after a series of “one-thing-led-to-another’s”. Some folks felt pressure from family. Others were pressured by financial concerns. The reasons why are all over the place. Do you know your parents’ reasons? Continue reading How did you end up in your career? What are your most and least favorite things about it?
For me, one of the most humbling and crazy parts of growing up has been slowly, fully realizing that parents are just people. Yup. Just people who were born a couple decades earlier and made babies. Our parents are (and have been) just trying to figure things out like everybody in our own generation is trying to do. Questions like this one open a door onto that generous place where we can really get to know the people under the “mom” and “dad” hats. Continue reading What was special about the first time you hung out with mom/dad?
Obviously related to the “When you think of your mom…” question. Like it or not, your parents strongly dictate who you are. Either we become them slowly or we consciously push against qualities in them we dislike. This question will tell you about your grandparent, your parent, and yourself all at the same time. Continue reading When you think of your dad, what do you think of first? What is/was important to him?
Beautiful question. Like it or not, your parents strongly dictate who you are. Either we become them slowly or we consciously push against qualities in them we dislike. This question will tell you about your grandparent, your parent, and yourself all at the same time. Continue reading When you think of your mom, what do you think of first? What is/was important to her?
Get to know the person your parent was before kids entered the picture. It can help you make sense of his/her tendencies now. Continue reading What did you love to do as a kid, before high school?
This wide open question allows your parent to take his/her response in any direction at all – the positive, the negative, the joy, the hardships. Continue reading What comes to mind when you think about growing up in [hometown]?