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Saturday, 4 June 2016

Of Questions and Answers

About two or three years ago, there was this advertisement for Bournvita that showed Kajol as a mother, struggling to keep up with her kid’s never-ending questions. The implication was that if kids drink Bournvita, it helps to develop their brains, spurring them to ask more questions. That ad ended with Kajol quipping to all watching mothers, ““Thodi mehnat to aapko bhi karni paregi.”
I remember watching that ad with mixed feelings.

First, there was a sense of feeling riled over Bournvita appropriating what is a natural state of mind for most young kids. Many children – yes, even those who don’t consume that health drink – ask questions.

Second, and stronger, was the feeling of envy towards the mother in that ad. I wished my kid would have asked questions about the shape of the stars and moon or why February has only 28 days. It would have indicated perhaps that he was going to be a scientist, studying the earth and the sky and the ocean to contribute to the knowledge base of geography or astronomy or oceanography, which are solid sciences, dealing with stuff that is just black and white, with no shades of grey.

I envied that mother in the ad because those questions, with just “thodi mehnat,” are easy to answer, because there are encyclopedias and the Internet.

What’s really difficult to answer is when your kid asks you questions about why people behave the way they do. That is one GREY zone. Especially when those “people” are the well-meaning ones in the family and friends circle. Not only do you have to give a satisfying reply, you have to also ensure the kid learns to view those people in a nuanced way. How do you teach a child – given to black and white thinking – to learn to accept the grey? How do you make him understand that most people are good, but with some idiosyncrasies that may not go down well with me because I look at things differently from them? How do you teach a child to continue to respect someone who is irritating?

Recently though, I realized that unknown to myself, I may have actually managed to answer at least some of my son’s questions right. I was wondering aloud at the exasperating behavior of someone and my teenager told me, “Amma, all things don’t always have a purpose. Just think that this is one example of an unpleasant part of his personality dominating over the other good qualities he has.”


My first reaction was that of amusement with his philosophizing. A kind of “Tirupati ke laddo va?” or “Meri billi mujhi se miaow” moment. Once that passed, I felt a kind of reassurance that if he’s able to say this to me, it means I did manage to get at least some of the answers right. 

Perhaps its really true that the apple does not fall far from the tree!

17 comments:

  1. Very nice, very realistic and matter of fact...
    For the wisdom your son has displayed, I'd say... as a mother you may have sparingly been exposed to it... given how as moms if we've not driven our kids crazy, we've not done our job so well...
    As onlookers, other's have always seen how he's a reflection of you and your thoughts...
    There's reason to believe that our children pick their thought, word and action from the nearest source they consciously observe... thankfully a wise mother like you.. will not only give good learning but also create scope for a meri billi mujhi see meow moment...

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    1. Thank you, Rajashree. That wisdom came after quite a struggle in the initial stages, though.

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  2. Face these everyday as a parent....sometimes the billi turns into a sher... And you are just that..bheegi billi....

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    1. Hahaha...indeed..at such times, good to know when to get out of reach of the sher.

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  3. Very true Anu.Felt good to know that I am not the only one struggling to be a parent.Parenting as I understand it today needs a lot of planning ahead,being able to forsee certain traits and being able to gently guide your child without compromising their individuality.Tough task.Thumbs up to you dear,you have done a good job.

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    1. Very true, Shreyas. And it just makes one wonder about how our parents managed to do so much with us, in a seemingly effortless manner

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  4. Very practical, indeed very much helpful for me especially to answer my kids questions.... thanks a lot for such a wonderful post manni....

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    1. I just wrote down my experience..am happy and humbled to know that it is helpful to you, too. Thank you Sowmya.

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  5. Very true annu....we as parents try a lot to guide kids ...but really nice to hear that from ur son.....kudos to him....who remembers ur teaching ...and as I know u personally....I know u r his inspiration... Good work...annu..always keep shining...God bless u and ur son

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    1. Thank you, Nayana for the blessings and wishes.

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  6. Replies
    1. Thank you for the compliment..but frankly, nothing great about it. It's your affection that makes you say that!

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  7. Sundarasekaran5 June 2016 at 15:02

    In my opinion, it is best to create conducive atmosphere for children to learn. During early childhood parents behavior has much influence. Every individual child is different and parenting is a very balancing act. Think of the way how you evolved. Though you can't dig deep into your childhood, you have the luxury of elder siblings who can throw light.

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    1. Yes, you're right..and I am really continually amazed at how my parents brought us up the way they did, and effortlessly at that.

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  8. As a mother who often had to play the role of both parents to 2 above average chldrenI must share one little secret.when ever I had to answer such questions I would first send a small prayer to the Lord. to Pl make me speak the right words.
    It may seem unlievable but very. often my own answers have surprised me and almost always convinced them.

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    1. Thank you so much, Mythily maami for sharing that secret. I too have used it on occasion, but your comment came as a much needed reminder to do it more often.

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