We all know how fast the years go by, especially when you're watching your young kids grow up. Each age, each stage of development, offers unique traits that you want to capture a snapshot of, because you know that it'll pass in the blink of an eye. Maybe a funny thing that they say, their latest obsession or their understanding of concepts like love and growing up.
We laugh about it now, but in a matter of months they will already have changed, and those gems that came pouring out of their mouths are often forgotten.
When my older daughter turned 3, I wanted to capture who she was by asking her simple questions and recording the answers. I never got around to it that year, so when she turned 4, I decided to not let another year slip by. I wanted a look into what her interests were, so I asked lots of questions about her favorite food, color, activity, song, TV show and more. And I wanted to get a sense of what she thought about some deeper topics, like her self identity, family, the future and love.
The idea is to ask her the same questions every year and see how her responses change over time. What did she want to be when she grew up when she was 4 years old? Five years old? Ten years old? Fifteen? What does she find exciting and challenging about school as a preschooler, an elementary school student a middle schooler? How would she describe herself? How did she define love? What did she think was the most important thing in life?
Or maybe she'll be one of those people who knows from age 5 that she is going to be an artist.
As I asked her these questions and later looked over her responses, I realized just how important and valuable it is for a parent to ask their kids these questions. I mean, mostly it was just really cute and funny. But it also served as a bit of an assessment. What is my kid picking up about life? How am I doing as a parent teaching my kid about love? What is it that makes my kid happy, sad or scared?
I talk to my daughter all the time, and I listen to her talk a lot. But this was a really different and valuable way to check in with her as well. I love seeing how small her world is now. How if she could go anywhere in the world, she would choose the park. How losing a balloon is what makes her sad. And the most important thing in life is going to school. What she wants to do when she grows up is clean the kitchen (Hah! I'm glad I got that one recorded). And of course, you have to take everything a young child says with a grain of salt. (She also told me her favorite food is green beans — FALSE).
But it's great to record those hilarious lies as well.
I can't wait to see how her world opens up. How her answers will reflect her growing understanding of life and the world around her. Instead of just wanting to go to the park, maybe she'll want to go to the snowy mountains or someday dream of traveling the world. The most important thing in life may remain education, or maybe it will include love and happiness, or justice and peace or something entirely different. And her future career aspirations could range from being an astronaut or a doctor or the President of the United States. Or maybe she'll be one of those people who knows from age 5 that she is going to be an artist. Maybe she'll never ever change her mind.
And hopefully she'll remember to clean the kitchen once in awhile, too.
Let them know that it should be fun, but there should be some seriousness to it so they don't just roll around making farting noises the whole time.
Regardless, I know that having these little snapshots of her at each age will be fun for all of us to look back on. While, of course, it's great if you can start as young as possible, it's never too late to start asking. If you're thinking of giving this a try with your kiddo, I have some suggestions for you:
Try to find a time when your child is not tired and not distracted. So for us, that would be in the morning on the weekend, when we have some free time. Definitely not while they are trying to watch TV or would rather be doing something else.
Start off by telling them what you're doing and why. How much you tell them will depend on your child and their age but fill them in on the project. Let them know that it should be fun, but there should be some seriousness to it so they don't just roll around making farting noises the whole time.
Make sure they know that there are no right or wrong answers — they can say whatever they want.
Try to record a video of it. Not only would be it amazing to have video footage of it, so you can capture their voice, their expressions and laughter, but it's also much easier to for you to ask questions and listen to their answers without scrambling to write or type their exact answer. It'll feel a lot more natural for them to talk to you if there's no paper or computer between the two of you.
Think of questions ahead of time, but be open to exploring other topics if the conversation goes that way.