They may be absorbed in their own little world of toys and playmates right now but years from now, as they brush with maturity, your kids are going to be interested in the life you have led. They will want to know how your upbringing and the stories therein compare to theirs. They will want a closer look at the real you. As they discover themselves and their abilities they will begin to look closer to home for the answers. These are some of the main questions you are likely to be asked.
1. Where were you born? The US is a nation of diverse cultures and peoples from all over the world. Your kids are going to want to know where their roots lie. Are they part Irish, part German? It’s interesting to know where you came from and if you still have family there. It gives your kids a sense of identity and the information needed to start researching their family tree.
2. What were you like as a kid? Your kids want to look into the window of your childhood. They want to see how your childhood compares to theirs. By discovering how you were as a child, teenager and young adult they can get a better understanding of who you are today and perhaps who they are.
3. Where did you live growing up? They will want to know where you lived and how you lived. Were you born in the US or did you come from another country as an immigrant? Share with them the details of your childhood home, the neighborhood, the room you had as a child and what your backyard was like. It’s sure to be quite different to what they have been used to.
4. What were your parents like? Where did your parents take you and how was your relationship with them? What they know about your parents, so far, has been dictated by the roles they have i.e. Grandma or Grandpa. Let them see a different side to their grandparents through your stories of your life with them.
5. Did you go on many dates? Not only will they get a sense of how strict your parents were with you concerning dating but it will give them an idea of how it was done when you were younger. Cultural and social differences can be quite intriguing from generation to generation.
6. What were your hobbies/passions/pastimes? Depending on where you lived growing up your hobbies as a youngster may be wildly different to what your kids do today. You might even spark their interest in trying something new to them perhaps something you were good at as a youngster.
7. Where and how did you meet my dad? What your kids really want to hear is a fairytale love story and if this fits your experience then all the better. For most of us, however, this is not quite the reality. You will be able to judge for yourself what is appropriate to tell them and still give them a good story.
8. How did you choose my name? Normally when we pick a name for a baby it’s because we just loved the name or we are naming the child after someone we love and respect. Your kids will want to know who picked their name and why so they can establish pride in their own identity.
9. What was I like as a baby/child/teenager etc? It’s OK to tell them the good and the bad things about themselves growing up as long as there is a healthy measure of both. Some of your stories of them growing up will surprise them especially those very early memories they are unlikely to remember themselves.
10. What would you do differently with your life looking back? No child wants to see their parents unhappy and full of regret but at the same time they will be interested in your dreams and whether they were fulfilled. Share with them your dreams and how these perhaps changed as you grew older.
There are probably many more questions they are likely to ask. Writing an Autobiography is the one of the best ways to capture these stories in a more permanent way. It will give you something solid to present to your family.
What is an Autobiography & why should I write one?
An Autobiography is quite simply a historical record of a persons life; the thoughts, feelings, events, people and places of an individuals past in detail. It’s your very unique and personal contribution to your Family’s History and on a greater scale your contribution to the history of the world we live in. There are many reasons to write an Autobiography/Personal History. The main reason should be because you want to. Perhaps to share the experiences of your life with others; as a gift for your family; a desire to write; to try and understand your life and the forces that have shaped you; to gain a new insight into yourself; so that you are not forgotten or simply to have a story to go with those dozens of old photos you have kept in a box for years.
Even Oprah has said ‘I urge you to pursue preserving your personal history to allow your children and grandchildren to know who you were as a child and what your hopes and dreams were’.
What’s interesting about my life?
Many people wonder who would be interested in reading their Life Story. Quite simply, you’re Family. They love to hear these stories because it allows them to peer into a place in time ‘in your life’ which they don’t know. Your time in history is different to theirs. The younger members of your family don’t know what you were like as a kid, teenager, young adult, etc. They just know you as parent or grandparent. Some of them don’t imagine you were anything else but the age you are now. So when you share stories of your life with them they begin to realize that you were a kid too; you made mistakes, had fun, got into trouble with your parents, etc. They feel like they can relate to you better, they feel like they know you better and this brings you closer together as a family.
How do I begin to write my Life Story?
The task of starting such a project may also be daunting for some. You don’t have to be a great writer to write your Autobiography. Your words written naturally are more important. In fact ‘your words’ in ‘your handwriting’ are more precious to your loved ones than any printed document. They will really feel like they have a piece of you forever. It is, however, advisable to structure your writing into Life Stages; Childhood, Teenage Years, marriage, etc but you can start at whichever life stage is most comfortable for you. There are no set rules.
What if I have forgotten?
Many people also feel like they have forgotten the details of their childhood. Not so, they are still in there and just need a gentle push to the surface. Try looking through old photos and memorabilia you may have kept over the years. Take some quite time to reflect.
How long will it take to complete?
An Autobiography should never be rushed or run to a schedule. This is your project, you set the time scale. While I’m sure your loved ones are eager to get a glimpse of the ‘real you’ don’t be pressured into finishing quickly, you don’t want to miss out important parts of your story.
Writing and sharing the stories of your life should be a positive experience, so enjoy it. Have fun reliving those old memories. Laugh at the funny ones, cry at the sad ones but most of all don’t ever let yourself forget them again.