It struck me, recently, to ask my kids to think of themselves 20 years from now and to look back on their childhoods from that vantage point and try to think of how they'd want my parenting to have been different. Basically, why wait until they're in their 30s and throw something at me? Why not get that now so that I can actually parent better, more individually?
Now, this isn't my first hypothetical thrown at the kids. I make up questions for the kids -- and on long car rides they can be elaborate questionnaires asked and answered aloud, steamrolling fasion ... about their futures, their plans, the person they may marry one day, careers, lives... I love talking about this stuff with the kids and, actually, I think it helps us get to some important issues and, of course, it gets them thinking about the future, concretely, which is a good thing to do ... setting goals, moving toward it ... actually thinking about the traits of the person you'd like to build a life with.
So here are my kids' answers to THIS question.
11 year old thinks and says, "I wish you'd taught me Spanish when I was younger."
"I don't speak Spanish."
"You could have arranged it."
"But remember how I tried to teach you French -- the words taped to objects in the house? The trip to France? Bastien giving you all lessons, the books, the flashcards..." He stares at me. "Okay, okay. I'm being defensive. I got it. That's valid. You want a Spanish tutor now?"
"No. Definitely not."
I ask the 14 year old the question.
He stares at me. "Okay ... Honestly?'
"I'd like you not to ask us deep questions like this. I don't care for them."
"You don't care for them? But, I'm so good at them... the elaborate questionnaires on the long car rides... the steamrolling conversations ... "
"Nope. I don't like 'em and twenty years from now I'm going to wish you hadn't asked them."
"Okay... but, but ..." I give. "Okay."
I ask the four-year-old. Not sure the term regret will register, I ask if there's anything I should be doing differently.
Lit up, "YES!"
I'm a little surprised by the enthusiasm. "What would that be?"
"Bring me lots of toys!"
"You get toys for Christmas and your birthday."
"All the time."
I ask the 16 year old.
"I don't know."
I told her what the 11 year old said about Spanish, the four year old on toys,and the 14 year old said about deep questions.
"Oh, no. I like the deep questions. I just need some time ..."
And the way she says she needs some time makes me a little worried. Is it going to be a long list? She's a thoughtful kid with very high standards. (Something I've learned in the long car-ride questionnaires...) What exactly should I be waiting for? Was this really such a good idea?
A few weeks later, my daughter says, "I think we should watch The Daily Show as a family. Make it a nightly tradition."
"I'm not sure we can do that." I mean, a trusted news source, of course, but mandatory?
"Well, then, that will be my deep regret."
And so there you have it. Not enough toys, not enough early foreign language development (Seriously! I sent kids to French camp!), not enough mandatory Jon Stewart, and too many deep questions.
I can live with this. And that's something to be THANKFUL for.