Have you seen starry eyed moms (and sometimes dads) talk about their fast-growing quick-learning bundles of joy? More often than not, I hear about their questions. You know what all he asked? “Why do cars need petrol? Why do we feel hungry? Why children need more sleep than adults? Why fever? Why vaccination? And why fever immediately after vaccination? Why soap? Why shoes and why not chappals to fancy places? How do birds build nests? What is a stray dog and how is it different from other dogs? Why do beggars choose to beg outside places of worship? What were the British doing in India? Why this and why that.”
I hear the questions and usually presume that answers would have been given. But it is when I actually hear parents converse with their children that I realize that the children almost never get the answers to the innumerous questions they pose. In the great rush of parental pride and joy they forget that they have not explained to their child why cars need petrol, why we feel hungry and what the British were doing in India.
The child receives inadvertent answers. “You ask nice questions but there are no answers”, “You are more intelligent than I am”, “You ask silly questions that are worth a good laugh but it is not worth my time to answer them” and the worst of them all, “You are an arrogant child and these are not questionable things. You just do as I say without questions.” Heck, some of these answers are sometimes even verbally given by tired adults.
I do understand that some questions really don’t have convenient answers and are too amusing to not chuckle at. I mean, who gave Chithalai Chathanar his name and why? Did they mean it as a joke or was it a trendy name during his time? I don’t presume to know and don’t know anyone who does. But usually a question raised by a child can be answered by a sensible adult without too much difficulty. It is just that most of us are too clueless about the world of dinosaurs, uncomfortable about the traditions we pretend to believe in and pretty much unhappy about our own thoughts and stances about important issues. Constantly bowdlerizing our replies can get exhausting. But do we not owe our children sensible answers? Is there any point in placing the blame on the teachers when parents should play a significantly big part in the development of our child’s morals and standards? And please, do not give them circular answers like “It should not be done as it is wrong.” When you deem something wrong, have an honest reply to what is wrong about whatever you are talking about. It maybe something small like using your left hand to accept a gift or it may be as big as doing recreational drugs. Be clear and specific. “I said so” is not the answer to important questions.
Do not teach the child that accepting adult behavior and aping it cutely is a sweeter thing to do than questioning and exploring and being willing to think. It is nothing of that sort.