MY daughter cried over an exam that went wrong. As a mother, it pained me watching her being upset over something that really meant to her. She was not just crying over spilled milk. But she was willing to let it go and chose to settle it within herself. She was relieved before I did. And I was reminded of some learning moments when my children were small.
Are you happy with your life? Every now and then I would ask my then little children this question. They got so used to this question that my son made it a habit, even until now, to ask me “Masaya ka?”
One afternoon, I was strolling hand in hand with my daughters, 11 and 8 then. I asked them this question. The younger was quicker to answer affirmatively. And when I asked “why?” the younger excitedly answered “Because I had ice-cream today!” The older one had a hard time answering the why question, and I was glad that she did.
I know of many adults who carry heavy baggage from their past. They grew up with bitterness and wounds that never seem to heal in years. I have few friends who would come to me to seek counseling, and some just needed someone who could lend them ears. Their struggles never seem to end. They come and go and come again when triggered. For some of them, it’s because of parents’ neglect and abuse, and for others it’s because of parents’ choices and decisions. The former was obviously not in my growing family. It’s the latter that bothered me that’s why I needed to ask my children. As a parent, I don’t want to assume that my children are “okay”. Parents make decisions and choices that affect the whole family. So, I need to know how my children are affected inwardly. I asked my children this question because I wanted to probe what’s in their heart. I wanted to make sure they won’t grow up with unresolved baggage from the past.
Are you happy with your life? This question is simple, yet even I, myself, find it hard to answer. I could easily say YES but I would not be honest to myself because I do have many trials, big and small. I face challenges almost every day, and honestly, I’m not happy every day. I understood why my older daughter had a hard time answering the question. I also didn’t want her to answer like her little sister. She’s beginning to understand that life is hard, and a scoop of ice-cream cannot make one happy all the time. I also explained to them that although we care much about them being happy, life is not all about our own happiness. There’s more to life than just being happy. And that younger daughter, who is now almost 20, learned that lesson by heart. She was quick to make a resolve not to dwell in her sadness over an exam that gone wrong. She decided to move on.
Now that my children are all adults, they know that whenever I ask, “Are you happy?”(without saying “with your life”), I’m not just asking “Are you in a good mood?” It’s a probing question and, at the same time, my way to connect and to start a heart-to-heart conversation. I don’t expect them to give me a quick answer. And the NO for an answer is as welcome as their YES. Sometimes, their long silence is a good sign that they are carefully thinking and assessing their heart.
For the young parents, try asking your children this question and see how it opens a teaching-learning opportunity for your family. For parents with older children, you may use this question to connect to your silent teenagers, especially to those who always have their earphones on. You may not get an affirmative answer but it’s alright. It shows that you care.
Happiness or feeling good or being in a good mood is not our goal in this life, no matter how much we so desire it for our children. What is important is that they know how to face life, that whether they have a “good day” or a “bad day”, a “happy mood” or a “sad mood”, they do not lose hope in life. We don’t seek happiness, but it comes when we find contentment in whatever situation we are in. And it’s one core value that a parent can teach to his or her children.
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