My 10-year-old daughter was amazed to learn that I walked home for lunch each school day when I was a kid. She couldn’t believe the teacher just let me leave and return in time for recess.

Today’s schools are sadly, yet understandably, monitored. A child simply leaving the school on her own doesn’t happen. Then I told her that her grandmother was required to walk home from school each day because lunch wasn’t provided. “Life was very different back then,” I explained.

And from this conversation, a wonderful project was born. 

My kids are blessed to have two sets of grandparents. My children view them as simply grandmothers and grandfathers. They know hardly anything about their lives as children, teenagers, and young adults. This topic doesn’t usually come up in typical exchanges between grandparents and grandchildren. Grandparents very eagerly ask about school, sports, and activities. And grandkids — being typical kids — very eagerly talk about themselves! 

So I’m taking the initiative to start a conversation between my children and their grandparents about what life was like “back then.” Here's how you can do this, too!

1. Compile a List of Questions

If your kids are old enough, ask them to submit some questions, too. Questions I have so far include: 

  • Where were you born? 
  • What games or hobbies or sports did you enjoy? 
  • Did you have any pets growing up? 
  • What did you bedroom look like?
  • What was your favorite dinner food?
  • What did you and your parents/siblings do for family outings (movies, games, outdoor activities)?
  • What types of chores did you do? 
  • What type of work did you parents do? 
  • What was your favorite subject in school? 
  • What did you want to be when you grew up?
  • What was your first job?
  • How did you meet your wife/husband/partner? 
  • Can you describe your wedding day? 
  • What was my mom/dad like growing up? What about my aunt(s)/uncle(s)?

2. Send the List to Each Grandparent

Here’s where a grandparent's personality and “work style” is important. For example, my mother uses a computer. It’s likely she’ll type her answers for each question and email them to her grandkids. On the other hand, my mother-in-law prefers talking and might likely want to chat with the kids in person.

3. Remember That Conversation Is Key!

Even if they write the answers down, find time where kids and grandparents can chat in person or over the phone. It would be amazing to have all four grandparents present at the same time. They each led very different lives, so their grandchildren could enjoy hearing the diverse experiences.

4. Find a Way to Preserve This Project

Whether or not the answers are written, a video recording of my children and their grandparents enjoying this conversation will be a precious memory in and of itself. 

As my parents and in-laws are aging, their memories are fading. I don’t regularly research family history that dates back multiple generations. But I want my children to know that long before they were born, and their mom and dad were born, their grandparents were young kids and young adults who led amazing lives that made them who they are today. 

Have you tried this project? Share with us in the comments!

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