When their child(ren) start(s) talking, parents enjoy their cute, sweet chatter as much as they dread their major verbal milestones such as “No!” Phase, “Why?” Phase, “Where did I (do babies) come from?” phase, “Death” phase, “Where is God?” phase and more relevant to the current editorial calendar “Is Santa real?” phase.
I’ve always felt, we’ve had it quite easy so far. “No!” phase passed pretty painlessly for us, thanks to reverse psychology. “Why?” phase is a piece of cake for any parent with a smart phone and Google. If all else fails, “just because” would suffice. We scientifically explained “where babies come from” in plain language with the help of numerous children’s books available on this topic. “Death” phase was rather easy for us, as our children received the information as-a-matter-of-factly, rationalizing the order of natural deaths in our family along with their plans for our burials, resulting in questions such as “Mom, would you like your funeral to be held in the funeral house at the end of our street?”. “Where is God?” was the trickiest of all, so we took our time as they weren’t adamant about a definite answer right there, right now.
However, nothing prepared us for the real unanswerable question that popped out of no where one night, asked by our 9,5 y.o son: “Why do I exist?” followed by “Why was I born?” followed by “Why do I have this soul and personality? Who decides on it?”. The fact that these questions are precisely planned to times, when parent brains are preparing to shut down for the day, added major insult to the injury. He also started to question reincarnation and after-life as he learns more about universe and space as well as diseases, disaster and wars on Earth.
I admit. I have never thought, we would come to existential questions this early. I have never thought we would ever come to these questions, ever. These are the questions, I’ve yet to answer for my own self, let alone, explain it to a 4th grader.
One thing we’ve determined is that he does not merely ask these questions to get an answer but he questions the notions, trying to connect the dots between the information, no matter how little, he’s accumulated so far. As much as not to steer him in the wrong direction, we do not hurry to give him an answer either. We confess that we are still trying to figure these things out ourselves. We explain that some people seem to figure the answer out for themselves while others live their whole lives in search of an answer.
Even though I don’t think I have proper answer to these questions, I have quite a few ” reference book” answers and motivational quotes on this topic in my back pocket. Believe me, I have many books titled such as “What you are meant to do?”, “What should I do with my life?” and “Finding your passion” in my library. However, it would be unfair to him, if I made up the answers for him. How could I, when I don’t have an exact answer for my own self?
But I can encourage my children to keep asking these questions for themselves, instead of telling them to wait until when they grow up, starting right now, by listening to their inner voice, to find their answer inside, so that they can discover and define their own path early on. Most of us go with the flow of the current of the life determined by our families, social norms and our environment until our 20s, where we find ourselves walking the path cut out for us by someone else, only to have limited courage to change it. By our 30s, our path is set with very little bravery left, to steer away. Very few venture beyond the conventional and the traditional. I, personally, struggle sometimes to give myself an honest answer to questions like “Is this it?”, “Is this why I am here?”
Then I look around. Some people seem to have the answer. Some call it “passion”. Some name it “the calling”. Some say you look for it until you find it. Some say you define it yourself. When I hear or read, some of these -what I think as the – lucky ones had found their own answer much later in life, I cheer up, believing that I still have time. I fill up with energy to keep working on finding it out or by defining it myself.
That is why I am happy and hopeful more than scared or anxious to hear my son’s existential questions. It fills me hope to see he has started searching for his purpose, a deeper meaning at his young age. Because my biggest wish or prayer for my children is for them to be happy, fulfilled and satisfied as a being and find the path that they love, grow in and contribute to human kind in their lives.
I don’t want to come out as a mother boastful of her deeply thoughtful son. He can be as geeky about technological gadgets, games, apps and cars as any other 9 y.o. can be. Sometimes, he throws us these curve balls at the least expected times, which is the fun part of parenting. It makes my mommy-brain work its remaining cells harder.
In any case, no matter when or what he comes up with, the process will be an interesting journey for all of us. For starters, he made me review my own answers. I always feel my children teach me more than I could ever teach them. Maybe, they will help me find my own answers.