It can be challenging to talk to your parents about their lives, but sometimes you need that information to make your story work. Even talking to them about your life as a child can feel overwhelming. I Lived This author Christina Atkins has talked to her parents about all of this. While not everyone will have the same relationship with their parents (so talking to your parents may not look the same as her experience), you may find some helpful information in what she has to say.
First and foremost, Christina is the “self-appointed family historian of her generation.” Beyond collecting stories from her parents and relatives, she collects whatever else she can—photos, objects, etc. After her teenage years, she “started getting fascinated with all the different stories and the different perspectives, like puzzle pieces to a puzzle [she] had no frame of reference for.” To her, this collection is about understanding legacy, and finding a way for people to live on after they’ve passed.
Her dad, she says, has always been one to tell stories. She’s given him a digital recorder, and he once did a long, written account for her, but she finds that he now tells his best stories on Facebook. With her dad, Christina says it’s mostly just waiting for him to tell those stories so she can snap them up.
Her mom is a little more challenging to get stories from. She “has always just plowed on through life, making art or working, she never stops moving.” Christina says most of the stories she has from her mom are context for events in life, or stories she tells randomly.
In all, Christina says her parents have never been that hard to approach. She’s never had to set a time or place, nor has she ever had to create interview questions. It’s a much more natural process for her to get information from her parents. “It feels like the natural progression of my role in the family…it just happens when it happens.”
While she does feel this is just her natural part in the family, she also gives a great piece of advice: don’t wait. “There’s nothing worse than regret when the time is gone, and if this is something you feel you need to do, like I do, there’s really no time like the present.”