My Son’s “Why”

My son has outgrown (much too fast!) the phase where he used to do as he was told. I often think back to one instance in particular when his obedience was highlighted. My wife, he, and I were walking down a street in Dubai, and he stopped us to ask if he could walk up a ramp adjacent to the sidewalk (he found it fun to walk up and down ramps). Those were the days! Of late he’s entered a phase where most requests are met with a “why?” “Why, Baba?” Why this? Why that? My wife and I made a conscious commitment early on to nurture his curiosity and have doggedly stuck to a policy of replying with reasonable answers — for the most part. For those of you who’ve gone through this know how FRUSTRATING this can become. I confess that there have been instances where I’ve run out of steam and have replied with the classic “Because I said so!”

I recently learned that a classmate at Kellogg lost his right arm and leg in a freak accident when he was nine years old. The astounding thing is that I didn’t know about this until he shared his story at a Kellogg event organized to celebrate the diversity of stories at Kellogg. I was blown away. I had met this classmate several times before, and it had never been obvious. He uses a prosthetic arm and leg, and if you look closely you can tell that his hand is prosthetic. However, what’s fascinating is his attitude. He doesn’t make his disability the center of his life; so much so that I’m reluctant to even call it a “disability.” After he had shared his story, I asked him to tell us how he managed to remain so upbeat and optimistic. I asked this question because it hit me that I, like many others, easily let the petty issues of day to day life drag me down. I often forget to celebrate the beauty of family, friends, and a sunny day. My classmate responded to my question with an anecdote: Prior to his accident he loved drawing. So when he was recovering at the hospital he asked his parents to hand him a tablet and pen so he could draw. His parents tried to explain to him that he would not be able to draw because he had injured his hand (he was right-handed). But he didn’t understand what the issue was; he would draw with his left hand! His childish mind couldn’t see the insurmountable hurdle that the grown ups around him did. He got the tablet and pen and proceeded to draw a Mickey Mouse look-alike that he shared with us.

Karthik’s story inspires me and has incited in me a renewed appreciation for the imaginative powers of a child’s mind. My son’s frustrating “why’s” don’t seem as frustrating anymore. They appear more like a window into a fascinating world of possibilities that my grown-up mind once traversed.

Featured photo courtesy of Emma Frances Logan on Unsplash

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