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An interview with my 4 year old on the meaning of life, a child’s job and love…

 

Recently the Huffington Post put out a challenge to the world, have a conversation with either your parent, or child about the meaningful stuff in life.

I love this challenge because it’s something I do on a regular basis, but have never recorded. It’s sweet for me to imagine and hope that one day my son and I will be able to look back on this conversation as one of many.

This is one of the great pleasures of parenting, for me. The opportunity to witness, partner in, and sometimes even shape a world view in the making. Just giving my child attention, presence and actively listening to his opinions helps him form them.

I personally don’t believe in giving my child premeditated answers about life, death, G-d and the meaning of it all. I don’t want him to retort my answers as though they were the “right” ones. I truly value diversity and authenticity in this respect. Rather, I share my point of view but keep it as just that, my point of view, because I’m intrigued to discover (alongside him) his own unique perception of the world and how it works.

So when my son asks me: “Is there a G-d?”, “What happens after people die?”, “Who invented the world?”, “Why are there bad people?”, “What happened before people existed?” (which he does… pretty often) I like to start by throwing the question back at him: “Well what do you think about that?”. If he really wants to know my opinion or “the truth“,  I like to round up a couple of points of view. “Well some people think… and others think… I think… What do you think?”.

Why do I do this? Isn’t confusing? Well, personally I think these issues are confusing. It would be doing him a great disservice if I presented them as clear, obvious answers when they’re not and never will be. The big questions are questions he will inevitably have to confront, research, and ponder throughout his life until he settles on answers that satisfy him (or that don’t).

I like to think that this is a life long process… for me, for him, for everyone. And that we can claim the license to change our minds, to evolve and develop different theories throughout the decades. That there is no “one right answer”… only the right answer for me, right now.

I also want him to learn that not only do I not have all the answers, but that no one does, and that that is OK. It’s fine to stay in that uncomfortable, unsure space for our whole lives. That’s part of what makes life interesting, mysterious, fluid…

One of my favorite things about this particular conversation were E’s answers to the following questions:

 

Me: What is my job, as a parent?

E: To keep me safe and healthy.

 

Me: What is your job, as a kid?

E: To play and not to die.

 

I was THRILLED he said this. Because often I worry that I slip too far down an authoritarian path – and he might get the subconscious message that:

My job is to tell him what to do.

His job is to listen and be good.

But at least, for now, it seems he doesn’t think that at all. 2 brownie points for me!

 

I was curious that he thought that respect is the most important thing in life,  and I wondered what exactly he meant by that, if it was truly his authentic answer or a reflection of what he hears at home – or perhaps a combination of the two.

Of course, having loved this little conversation, I tried to repeat the experiment the next week with a whole batch of new questions I was excited to ask – to which E replied: “I hate being in pictures! It’s stupid!” So that was that!

I would so love to see your submissions to this challenge! What conversations have you had and cherished with your children or parents? It’s so worth writing them down so they’re remembered in years to come.

 

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