Of conversation starters, biggerators and learning the art of fearlessness from a child


The other day my 7yo niece Arianna, pulled out a box from her room, came and sat next to me and said, “Let’s play this game Bua.”  She held out a recycled leather tissue box cover that had been converted into what was now the “Sood Family Conversation Box.” 

Conversation starters

While privy to all the board games in their room, I had never seen this, and was particularly intrigued because it seemed home-made. I asked her what it was. She said she didn’t really know but asked me to play with her.

We opened the box to find 60 assorted “conversation starters” in the box. In the form of little folded pieces of paper with questions on them.

all you need is words

She picked one, unfolded it and read out slowly and tentatively, “Would you rather dive from a high cliff into the ocean or give a book presentation in front of 500 people?”

She looked up and said, “That’s easy. I would rather jump into the ocean.”

I paused, wondering if she was just saying the first thing she retained or she actually thought about the choices.  I explained a book presentation to her. I used a show and tell analogy and explained “in front of your whole school, all the children, all ages in the audience.” I then explained the height of a cliff to her using our house stacked up more than 20 times on top of each other. Like “scary high.”  Unblinkingly she said, ‘Yeah, the cliff, Bua.”

I asked her why. Her answer:

“I like to take risks.”

Matter of fact.

Wow, I thought to myself. She is running towards the scary stuff. If I had this conversation with an adult, most would run away from the scary shit and in their case, it would likely be public speaking. Geez – the pressure, the embarrassment, the public judgement.

Arianna however, thought it was a cinch.

I wish I had the fearlessness of a 7yo.

We moved on to the next question:

“If you had to teach a class for a day, what subject would you choose?”

“Science” she answered in a jiffy.

“Why?” I pushed.

“Bua, because I love science. Remember I told you, when I grow up I want to invent a Cleanarator? It will clean all the air and take the pollution out. And it will be good for your asthma. And then I want to invent a Biggerator and  a Smallerator.”

Between reminiscing about Professor KeenBeam and Professor Calculus and wanting to give her a tight hug, I managed to keep a straight face. I had heard about the Cleanarator, so asked her what her Biggerator would do.

“You know when we really like something, like some tee-shirt or something and then we become bigger and grow out of them? Well the Biggerator will make these clothes also become bigger with us.”

“Interesting,” I added, “and think of all the people who cant afford to buy new shoes or clothes for their kids who grow so fast, it will be perfect for them too.”

She nodded happily with the quiet confidence of someone who had already cracked the formula.

My American aunt, who has spent the past 30 years as an elementary school teacher and administrator, was sitting there.Four years ago, she had made this box to transpose this idea from classroom to home. And it had been sitting in the recesses of Arianna’s room until now. She smiled at her granddaughter’s imagination and watched us as we continued to pick slips of paper and talk. 

We spoke for 15 minutes, but I managed to get an insight into Arianna’s mind like I never had earlier. What a great 15 minutes that was for me! It made me admire facets of her that do not come forth on a regular basis. Ideas that she nurses, ideals that she has. Yes, Arianna is voluble, but I can only imagine what a conversation box would do for parents with quieter kids. Or families who spend limited time with their kids – most of which is study or homework-related.

I have a feeling if I jig this slightly it would serve as a great icebreaker tool, to get to know colleagues at the workplace too. Or even acquaintances. (They may not be as honest or forthcoming, but it’s worth a try)

Some of the other questions in the conversation box, so that you get an idea:

If you could choose a nickname for yourself, what would it be?

If you could paint all the rooms in your house a different colour, what colour would you paint each room?

What superpower would you like to have?

Follow these up with ‘Whys’ and “Hows’ and get deeper into your child’s mind.

There is gold in there.

Pure Gold.

About the author:

Aparna Jain is an Integral Master Coach and the author of The Sood Family Cookbook and Own It- Leadership Lessons from Women Who Did (November 2015, HarperCollins). She is committed to making women take charge of making the workplace equitable. She has over 20 assorted nieces and nephews and lives with two nieces and one nephew.

(If you wish to write a guest post, mail me on mommygolightly@gmail.com)


Now that I have a vocabulary….

It’s funny when they say what goes around comes around and that’s been happening with me and Re. My mother always used to say that I talked too much for my own good and “you just wait till you have kids of your own,” etc, etc. Now Re is totally upstaging me in the vocabulary department with his comebacks and witticisms and the result is a series of wtf moments. Some nuggets:

Me: Here, drink this milkshake. You will be stronger.
Re: I can be stronger with water also.


Don’t shout mamma. Othewise I will cancel you.


What happened here, I point to a red bump on his skin.
Yesssturday when I was going in the snow no, a purple rabbit bit me here.


Me (at spa): I will have a pedicure.
Boy: And I will have nail polish.


I really don’t want to take a bath.
It’s holiday time.
I’m sorry.


I want to comewichu to office, boy said.
But you will distract me, I said.
No, I will not distruck you.


Boy and I went up a mall.
Boy hugged a mannequin.
Mannequin had a great fall.
Boy and I not going to mall again.


8 am. Morning play.
Me: what a mess!
Boy: don’t chubble me now. I’m just cleanupping everything.


Boy: I’m a good boy no?
Me: Yes. And I’m a good girl no?
Boy: No you are a good boy also.


Re: Mamma, boys don’t know. Ony girls know.
Me(saying): Of course not, you know too.

Me (thinking): That’s a great pick-up line.



Conversations with a three-year old: Part 3

So I never figured age three was the age of telling the parents, “You better watch out what you were saying, else I am gonna use it right backatcha!”. I learn everyday from our conversations. About wisdom, about listening, about laughing, about caring, about problem-solving, but mainly about listening to your heart. Some of these have also featured as tweets or status updates on facebook, but for those who missed it, here is a flashback:

It’s a Monday. Re has a slow-motion morning. Misses bus. OPU offers to drop us, but works in even slower motion and we eventually land up at school an hour late.
Teacher asks Re, “Why are you late?”.
He replies, “Because the bus was not there!”


Ninni time. Am reading to Re. He is distracting me by pointing to his bruises and scabs. “Look mamma, lion bit me here, and tiger bit me here, and cheetah bit me here and cocodiling bit me here.”
“Really?” I say. “And muksito bit me here,” I point to an imaginary spot.
“Wait mamma, let me sing Flee Fly Muksito and shoo them away!”


Post a play-date, Re and I walk back to our waterlogged building. “So many waters are there,” he said, while he waded through — gumboots, raincoat etal. It makes me smile and feel grateful. For the rain. For water. For life.


“Come let’s have a bath,” I tell Re. “We have to drive all the germs away,”, I say dramatically.

He slaps his body at a few places and says, “mamma, I shooed the germs away. No need for bath.”
Somebody help!


So I convince Re that we haffto go to school even though “it’s still night time mamma,” only to be accosted by a fallen tree where the bus stop is at. I go into my quick plan B mode, making calls, asking the driver to reroute the bus. We are told that we have to walk to the next diversion which seems a few miles away in the downpour. As I lead him away from the scene of the crime, I sense a tug.
“Mamma, the tweee is boken mamma, let’s put sticky tape on it.”
I was like fuck the tape, let’s just flee, but I realised I was a mom now, so I went, “Okay, you go to school, and by the time you come back, I will put sticky tape on it.”


Me to Re: So your teacher tells me you have been dancing in school?
Re: No mamma, I was not dancing in the skooooool, I was dancing in the class onwy.


“Chotabim onwy eating laddoos. He not eating veggiables,” Re declared one day.
Dear chotabim’s mamma, we need to talk. What veggiables, I will make your boy eat fruitables and anyables.


It’s a scrabble Sunday. I had lousy letters, so my first word was DIP.  said, “no mamma, make a bigger one!”
A few words later, I had PERVADE. “Yay, you did it!” he exclaimed.
Thank you scrabble god!


Re wakes up and says, “Mamma I want to dance. Put chipmunks moonie.”
I am like, “god you are such an enthu cutlet.”
He says, “I am not a cutlet, I am a boy.”
Re lying down. Feet up in the air.
“What are you dooving?” I ask.
“I yam resting my feet.”
“But you can rest with with feet down,” I point out.
“But I can rest with my feet up also, no?” he says.I am reminded of a yogassana called Vipritkarni. Perhaps I did too much of that when I was pregnant.
School-bus boarding five min away. It’s one of those slow-motion days.
“I wantooowatch chotabim,” boy says.
“But it’s kissna’s burrday today, chotabim is busy making laddoos with his mother.”
“Then I also wantoooo make laddooos.”
“Maaaaaaahhhmaaaaaayyyhhhh iiiiiiiiiii waaaaanchhooooooo watch dodaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” Re whines.
“No speaking in whiny voice. Speak normally,” I command.
“Normally,” he whispers.
It’s story time. Except. Re is telling me one.
Mamma, onceupatime, there was a pigeon.
Mamma pigeon or dadda pigeon?
Ummmmm… a dadda pigeon.
What did he do?
He found onetwofivesixseveneight eggs.
Oh… ok, then?
He ate the eggs.
And then?
He ate the flamingo also.
Then he was happy.
I invent the bus-cookie to make heading for the school bus more exciting in the morning. Re gets two everyday which he chomps on while he waits for the bus. Today, he was still chomping when the bus arrived.
“The bus is here,” I said. “Come kickly!
“But I haffto finish the cookie no?”
Said bus waited for a full two minutes while the cookie was devoured. So much for creative thinking.