Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pop Mothering

When you have the Deepak Chopra brand on your side you can write a book called 100 Questions from My Child and get a bunch of endorsements when in fact content at random places on the web gives you both food for thought and chuckle in far more generous portions.

Mallika Chopra's world as it comes through the saccharine sweetness of her copy is perfect beyond belief. There is not one thing out of place in her charmed existence which naturally includes the two little girls. In doing that, the average mother, with her share of challenges in life will find it hard to relate to the framework within which a lot of the questions are asked and get answered.

As for the questions themselves - they are fairly run of the mill in that most children ask them in different variations. And that is not such a terrible thing and does not undermine the importance of the questions in any way. Childhood is a rite of passage and it to be expected that it will be experienced by those who pass through it in more ways that are similar than are different.

Having discounted points for cuteness, exceptionally imaginative or thought-provoking we are left to consider the merits of the answers themselves. Is there anything for a parent to glean from how Chopra responds to what her children want to know ? Are there any lessons to be learned ?

As the mother of a little girl, I found her over the top affirmation of her "beautiful princesses" highly cringe worthy. The fact of the matter is, when it comes to children, love is blind and to a mother's eye they are always perfection incarnate. To take the message directly to an impressionable child is never a good idea. There are much better ways to build healthy self-esteem in children and that includes confidence about their appearance.

Chopra does not leaven her message to her children with humor. There is not one line in the entire book that would provoke a chuckle. To have pop-wisdom dispensed without a smile is pretty hard on an adult reader but maybe her kids have fared better. One hopes her "real life" responses are less stage managed than what comes across in the book. It reminds me of the kid in the movie Ordinary People who comments that his father is so right that he could snap.

The most readable part of the book is the foreword by Deepak Chopra. The idea of the book is fundamentally a good one - listen to the questions your children ask, work on finding the answers and encourage them to ask more. Mallika Chopra has done all of that and written it all down for good measure making it a case of a great idea diminished by mediocre execution.

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