100 Questions from My Child
By Mallika Chopra

 

 

I grew up surrounded by people who were on a journey of self-discovery. As my father, Deepak Chopra, is a well-known author and speaker in the self-help space, I have been to numerous seminars and interacted with people who are going through some momentous transition in their lives. Generally, these people are going through a life-changing moment — such as a recent diagnosis of a disease or a divorce — that have challenged them to think about who they are and where they fit in their community or the world.

Despite growing up in this environment, I have to admit that I was never fully aware of myself — my driving needs, my insecurities, my core beliefs. It was when I became pregnant that a need to really discover who I am became more compelling. Knowing that as a mother, I was going to be responsible for nurturing a new, vulnerable, pure life was an overwhelming sense of responsibility. My actions, my thoughts, my passions, my insecurities, my beliefs would be the impressions that shaped the life of my child. I was going to be responsible for nurturing the mind, body and soul of another human being.

One of the most interesting, fun and challenging aspects of the parenting journey for me has been the process of answering my children’s questions. Even before they could speak, my children began asking questions — questions about how to interact with the world, about what was safe, what was good or bad in their world. And it was my reaction to these questions that began to shape their worldview, their sense of security and trust.

And, of course, as Tara, my elder daughter, became more vocal, she was actually able to put her questions into words, unleashing an unending hunger for information, explanations, justifications, and confirmations. Question after question after question!

There were the questions about behavior — Why do I have to share? Why do I have to say thank you? Why do I have to forgive my sister? — that set the foundation for their choices and values. There were also questions related to the body and the earth — Why don’t my princess shoes fit me anymore? Why don’t girls have tails like boy do? Do trees have feelings? Where do snowmen go? — that provided an opportunity to stir the imagination with fairytales and science.

There were the questions that created an opportunity to search, imagine and inspire — Do I have to color inside the lines? How can I help others?  How did you choose me as your baby?  And, there were many difficult questions — Where is Maa (my grandmother who died)? Mommy, what’s a bomb? If God is always watching, why do bad things happen to good people? — that created a need in me to make sure I was responding to them in a conscious, heartfelt manner.

I realized that answering these deeper questions required my own soul searching. For there were many questions I really did not know how to answer. They were questions that made me think about what I believed in and how I perceived my world. And I felt a sense of responsibility to give thoughtful answers that fostered love, confidence, and contemplation. There were also many times when I had to admit to my daughters that I really did not know how to answer a question, and that it was okay to not know.

As their mother, I was creating a context for them to ask and answer questions, setting the framework for how they would approach situations, challenges, and experiences for the rest of their lives. I realized that many times my daughters came up with the answers to questions, sometimes the most difficult ones, by themselves. In fact, their answers were often much more profound than anything I could ever think of.

As I watched them discover the world and find their answers, I was often amazed at their inherent wisdom, connection, and clarity. As I continue my parenting journey, I realize that my daughters are truly also my teachers. Through our conversations, our struggles, and our laughter, I continue to learn and search and question day after day. I will forever be grateful to both of them for challenging me to continually seek and grow and love.

100 Questions From My Child is a collection of some of the questions and answers my daughters and my family have explored together. When Tara or Leela, my younger daughter, asks me a question with their big, curious, loving, and trusting eyes, I want more than anything else to give them answers that make sense.
In the forward of the book, my father writes:

For a parent, nothing is more important then encouraging your children to ask as many questions as possible, and in turn to also participate in the questioning of everything we take for granted. At the deepest level of our being our soul has a knowingness of all that exists. The knowingness that results with intimacy of our soul results in spontaneous right action: the ability to make the most evolutionary choice in every situation that happens. But the soul must be nurtured through questioning. Who am I? What are my deepest desires? What is my purpose in life? What contribution do I wish to make to the world? These are questions that shape the meanings and context of our life as we go from childhood to maturity.

My hope is that even when I can’t answer all of my daughters’ questions, I can cultivate in them a sense of self-discovery, a willingness to be open, and a desire to keep asking more questions.

Mallika Chopra is the author of “100 Promises To My Baby” and soon-to-be-released “100 Questions From My Child” (Rodale). She also serves as a spokesperson for UNICEF raising awareness for orphans who have been affected by HIV and AIDS. Learn more about Mallika’s book and her work with UNICEF at www.mallikachopra.com
 


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