Saturday, March 25, 2017

On Being Interviewed by Ben

My son Ben is in second grade. His class is doing a project for Women's History Month that involves interviewing special women in the students' lives. Last week their homework was to interview one special woman. I was very pleased that Ben chose me (though, let's be honest, he procrastinated until the last day and I was really the only over-18 woman around to interview!).

The questions were simple:

  1. What are you most proud of?
  2. What has been your biggest challenge?
  3. What words of advice do you have for young girls?
Simple, but they stopped me in my tracks. My mind raced to the adult answers to these questions, and as I stared at my 8 year old, I had my own question in my mind: How honest should I be? I had to stall a little, pretending that I had to do one more thing in the kitchen before sitting down to chat with him. My mind raced a little, searching for the appropriate, yet still honest, answer for him.

I settled on these answers, which were probably full paragraphs when they came out of my mouth, but succinct (slightly lazy?) Ben shortened them to a sentence or two:
  1. My mom is proud that she learned to speak Thai fluently in the Peace Corps.
  2. My mom's biggest challenge is staying patient and calm as a mother.
  3. When you're young, you might want to hide your differences so you blend in. When you're older, you realize these differences are the things that make you special.
But the questions rolled around in my head for hours afterward, and I think they (and the fact that I was thirsty from only drinking wine, not water, when we went out last night) woke me up way too early this morning. I woke up thinking of my grown-up answers to them. Here they you can see, they are a little longer!
  1. I'm proud that I'm still married after going through some really tough years. I'm proud that I kept my promise to stay committed to my husband despite having what some might argue were reasons and opportunities to leave. I'm very proud that we will celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary in two months. We're a work in progress, no doubt, but I'm proud of sticking it out.
  2. My biggest challenge? Two things: First, in coming to terms with where I am in life. Accepting the fact that I am a writer who has published essays but is still working on getting a book out. My main focus is my children and their health and development, so a lot of my time is spent in the kitchen, shuttling them to activities, and spending quality time as a family. Second, letting go of resentment. Forgiving things that should be water under the bridge by now, but...I'm really good at recycling grievances.
  3. Believe in yourself, believe in your own worth, believe that your dreams are possible. Work hard to achieve the things you really want. Be humble to the process. Hold your head up high even though you will, inevitably, make mistakes.

What about you? How would you answer these questions? What are the first answers that jump to your mind?


  1. Thanks for sharing these two versions of "the interview". These are good questions we can all ask ourselves.

  2. A friend having her 50th birthday this year decided to interview 50 of her friends over the course of the year, and she asked questions like these but more extensive. It was a sobering experience, and I'm glad she's going to transcribe the answers and send us each our answers, since I've already forgotten what I said. But those are excellent questions, and each one could prompt a whole essay. I hope you keep on working on them.