When I was a kid, like most kids, I was full of questions. I peppered my mother with questions day and night, because as far as I could tell, my curiosity was a natural part of me like any other. Just like my arms reaching out for a hug, my questions sought connection with both my mother and the world around me.
Back then, answering a child’s questions was a little bit more involved than it is today. We did not have the internet. In order to answer a lot of my questions, a trip to the library was in order. We made a few trips to get some pertinent materials, but my mother was a busy woman and the encyclopedia and dictionary fast became my good friends. Books are nice, but they did nothing to help me feel connected to my mother, the world around me, or myself. That kind of understanding was just a head experience. Book knowledge left me lacking and by the time I was ten or eleven, my old friends were gathering dust.
My mother must have seen my questions as a chore, as they were almost always met with the answer “I don’t know,” “Just because,” or “Because I said so.” Rarely did she make the effort to help me find true understanding. Not only did I find this exceedingly frustrating, it left me feeling lonely and vulnerable to the world. I learned to keep my questions to myself, and eventually managed to kill my curiosity almost entirely.
Killing my curiosity had the effect of disconnecting me not only from my mother and the world, but also from myself. I learned to ignore, or squash altogether, not just the curiosity in my mind, but all of the corresponding messages my body was sending me … a tingling on the back of my neck, a tightening in my solar plexus, a warmth in my head or chest, the urge to run and play, or… the urge to run away.
This disconnection played a big role in my childhood. As a result, I found myself in many a dangerous situation. In part this was because, having cut myself off from my sense of wonder, I could not perceive, much less heed, the warnings my body was sending me. It was also in no small part, because I put myself in dangerous situations out of a desperate urge from my inner self to feel alive and connected. I used my poor choices as a means to call myself into consciousness, as if I knew that if I put myself in enough dangerous situations, eventually I would either die, or have to show up to rescue myself, since no one else was doing it.
It was not until I was in my early 20s that I even began to consciously ponder what a sense of wonder was. I had been told I had “no sense of wonder” by a person I deeply loved, and I was frustrated by what I perceived as a flaw in myself over which I had no control. “How do I grow a sense of wonder?”, I wondered, not unlike a cat chasing its tail.
It was a long journey reclaiming my wonder… a journey that included many years of pain, fear, loneliness, tears, anger, a lot of mistakes and finally joy. Once I had it in my grasp, however, I was so intimately connected with wonder that I would never let it go. I soon realized that my journey to discover my own joy and wonder had given me the tools to help others discover their joy and wonder too.
Now that I am a mother, I am devoted to answering every single one of my children’s questions. I (almost) never answer their questions with “I don’t know,” or “Just because”, and I have never responded to the question “Why?” with the answer “Because I said so,” because that is NOT an answer.
I want to raise empowered children who grow up into empowered adults. I want them to understand the context of my directions. Telling a child “Because I said so,” is the opposite of empowering. It creates stress, dependence, and anger. It is mind numbing, soul killing and destructive to their bodies. I want them to understand that that nagging “need to know” feeling is their friend, not something to be brushed aside. I want them to understand that their curiosity is not just in their head, but it is a whole body experience, so that when they are in a questionable circumstance and they feel that hot feeling at the back of their neck, or that tightening in their solar plexus, they are able to STOP, ask themselves an appropriate question about the circumstances, listen to their bodies, minds and hearts, and get themselves to a safe place. Sure, taking the time to answer all of their questions may seem like a chore, but usually, thanks to my own reclaimed sense of wonder, it is a journey of joyful discover for all of us, one which leaves us feeling more alive, more connected and… even more curious!