I am close with my parents. I talk to my mom and dad (separately) quite often, sometimes over the phone, sometimes on FaceTime. Usually the conversations are geared towards what is happening that week, how I am doing, how they are doing and how my kids are doing. Rarely do we get into deep conversations about their lives, experiences or perspectives.
However, a recent conversation with my mom revealed things I never knew or realized about her. For instance, I learned how old she was when she and my dad divorced (43) and how old she was when her father passed away (14). I knew brush strokes about my mom’s past, but didn’t know or remember specifics about some of her most defining moments. A lot of my memories are just that, my memories. Memories that are from my vantage point.
The chat evolved into a deeper discussion, such as her biggest regret and biggest life lesson. In that moment I learned so much about my mom: Things I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t asked.
I find myself with newfound awareness and empathy. It made me realize that I should have asked these questions a long time ago.
As weeks, months and years fly by, we are all missing opportunities to talk about real things — important things — with our parents. There are things that only they can answer or explain. Sadly, the reality is that when they pass, many of those answers, explanations and stories will go with them.
So why are we wasting time? Why don’t we ask them the questions that would explain events that shaped them, decisions they made and important lessons they learned? Questions that would yield new insights, understanding and compassion… for people we think we know so well?
Important questions you should ask your parents:
1. What was your childhood like?
2. What were you like in high school?
3. How would your parents have described you?
4. When you think about a fork in the road in your life, what was it and why did you choose that particular path?
5.What happy memory will you cherish forever?
6. What was your second choice for my name?
7. What have you always wanted to tell me, but haven’t had the courage to?
8. Growing up, who inspired you the most?
9. If you had to do it all over again, would you pursue the same career path?
10. What is your biggest regret?
11. Best trip of your life?
12. What amazes you most about society nowadays?
13. What do you miss most about the ‘old days’?
14. Looking back at your life thus far, what are you most proud of?
15. What did you discover in the last decade or two that you wish you discovered sooner?
16. Favourite place you have lived?
17. What were you doing when you were my age?
18. What advice would you give your 40-year-old self?
19. When did you know that you wanted to marry mom/dad?
20. What do you remember most about your wedding day?
21. What do you wish you made more time in your life for?
22. What do you wish you spent less time doing?
23. What family tradition do you cherish the most?
24. What have YOU always wanted to ask ME?
The reality is having loved ones in our lives is a blessing. While we have our loved ones with us, we shouldn’t miss opportunities to talk to them, learn more about what makes them tick and how they came to be the people/parents that we know and love.
Don’t regret what you didn’t ask them or tell them.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring, so today, make it a priority to reach out and really talk to your parents.
If you don’t ask, you will never know.