The journalism profession draws people who are naturally curious, which is a nice way of saying we’re snoops.
We’re trained to question authority and basically anything that people tell us, which means even if you’re telling us the truth, we’re not going to believe it until we can triangulate it with public records, security surveillance footage, medical transcripts and possibly a photograph that you didn’t think we’d ever find on that social media profile that was deactivated years ago.
On a good day, we can get reluctant people to talk. We know when to play the devil’s advocate, a caring counselor or good cop/bad cop.
Our instinct is to ask questions that avoid the dreaded “yes” or “no” answers because we’re always in search of that one great quote. And sometimes, in order to get it, we have to listen to a source patiently say whatever is on their mind until we hear what we need to know. We’re smarty pants (OK, know-it-alls), well-informed on current events (OK, gossips), and obsessed with finding answers (OK, workaholics who Google or Bing everything).
And all of those things factor into the unusual way we end up parenting our children. First, let me say my kids have never been able to get away with saying “Nothing” when answering the question “What did you do today at school?”
That’s because I don’t ask that question. Instead, I say, “Talk about three things that happened during the school day”
They know to expect follow-up questions to their answers. They know I don’t want to hear the same answers every day. But sometimes they surprise me and ask if they can give me four answers, because they’re a little chatty, just like me.
One of my colleagues said her kids used to accuse her of “interviewing” their friends. I can totally see myself doing that, especially as they get older.
My husband doesn’t like to go to my work functions because he said being in a room filled with journalists is like an interrogation. (I’m not sure how he knows how that would feel, though: I ran his name through the court records long ago to see if he had any criminal history, ahem, just as I do for anyone who might be left alone with my kids. It’s going to be a handy tool for when my kids begin to date. See, I told you we are thorough.)
The good news is that my kids are used to a mom who works odd hours, tends to document their lives nonstop with a camera, and madly scribbles down story ideas whenever we’re on vacation, at a restaurant, or in the middle of a movie night.
They’ve learned to stay away from me when I’m on a deadline and that my job is important, and sometimes it has to take priority over soccer games and other events.
They accept my quirky habit of copy-editing the school newsletter. They’ll humor me in the occasional game of Scrabble. They know to direct any mathrelated questions to their dad or grandpa.
But the best part of being a parent-journalist is watching them pepper their friends with questions and bring home examples that showcase their writing talents, and knowing that I fit in just as much at home as I do at the office.