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!