Happiness is a cup of coffee on a slow Sunday while watching sunset. Happiness is leaving office early on a Friday night. Happiness is watching T.V. on a non-busy Saturday afternoon. It is gardening at 5:00 A.M. on weekends and taking a leisurely walk with my family before breakfast.

Did you see what’s wrong there? I realized my brand of Happy have requirements now-a-days. Perhaps the responsibilities and the challenges I have to go through on a daily basis have raised that brand of happiness and made it more difficult to capture. It had more pre-requisites and I ended up becoming more and more dull and lifeless. Unhappy, to say the least.

It maybe started to ebb out like foul stench of a decaying carcass as people started noticing my slowly growing indifference. My wife noticed, my friends noticed. And no matter how much I try to keep it at bay in front of my kids, they too, noticed.

One morning, my 4-year old daughter, Iya, asked me why I was so unhappy. I said ‘Because the house is so messy. Your toys are everywhere. You don’t return them to your playroom anymore and the more toys we get, the more mess we make. I will start throwing out your toys so that the house is not messy anymore’. Of course I only said that in hopes that she’d be more responsible in cleaning up after her mess. She loves her toys. But what she said after that gave me a new perspective. After hearing my answer, Iya thought for a moment and then said, ‘Ok, you can throw all the toys, but please let me keep Wally (her Walrus puppet), and Puppy (her babysister’s stuffed Akita puppy keychain). You throw all the toys so you can be happy.’ I smiled at her.

She was willing to let go of all her other toys just to make sure I’m happy. She’s happy to see me happy even if that means she only gets to keep one toy – Wally. She also made sure her baby sister, Ivi (read as E.V.), gets to keep a toy as well. She’s very thoughtful and very sweet.

In that short conversation, Iya reminded me that happiness is not gauged by a number or achieved by completing a set of conditions. Happiness is being content with who you are and where you are currently in life. It is enjoying and savoring moments no matter how small. It is having satisfaction and gratitude for the people and things that surrounds you.

Not Going to School

Our morning routine goes: wake up, get a little playtime, take a bath, change to office clothes/school clothes, grab breakfast and go.

One morning, my 4-year old daughter who is now at pre-kinder level, suddenly said ‘I don’t want to go to school forever and ever’ just before her bath time. She dropped that like out of the blue. I was terrified. She loved going to school and nothing was amiss before that which could have thrown her off the mood. Her tone was firm and she started to cry. My wife and I got worried as to why. We tried to probe her for a reason and as we did, she started crying louder. She would not give a reason. Just screamed ‘I don’t want to go to school’ over and over.

With all the shouting, my patience started to dwindle and I also started to raise my voice while insisting that she must go to school especially if there was no good reason why she wants to skip the day.

At this point, I realized I am in a bad situation. If I backed down, I’ll lose credibility. If I continue on, I might really end up getting angry. I yelled at her before…and believe me, it bothered me a lot. It bothers me until now everytime it crosses my mind. That’s not who I wanted to be as a parent. So I went out of the room to clear my head and think of a better way to handle the situation.

After a few minutes, I went back. She’s dressed for school but was still crying. I continued probing her and asked in a calm tone ‘Don’t you really want to go to school?’ Of course she said she really don’t and added ‘I’m very very tired’. So I said, ‘Ok, we’ll not go to school’. She looked at me half-puzzled and asked ‘Can I change to my real clothes?’ She meant her clothes for home. I said yes, and we pulled out a fresh set of pants and shirt from her closet and I helped her to change. My wife looked more puzzled but didn’t say a word. All the while, she was wondering what my plan was. My daughter left the room very delighted and went playing downstairs with her younger sister. I let her enjoy her ‘Not Going to School’ moment while I finished prepping myself for work – and basically figuring out how to turn things around.

As I was having breakfast, I beckoned her to sit beside me. I showed her the recent class picture released by the school. I asked her to tell me the names of her classmates and point which ones are her friends. In a jolly manner, she named them one by one including her teachers and told me a little bit of what they do at school. I asked her, ‘What are they going to do today?’ She responded, ‘It’s dinosaur day, Dad’ with such enthusiasm. I said, ‘Oh, it would have been nice if you can tell them about your build-your-own dino toy. But you can’t because you’re not going to school today, are you?’, her eyes twinkled and with a big grin said, ‘I want to go to school now!’ We hurriedly changed her back to her school uniform and she happily dashed out to the front yard to announce to her mom, ‘I’m going to school now!’

I’m very happy how my rag-tag plan turned out. Relieved parents we were.

How about you? What could you have done in this situation? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment so we can learn from each other and improve ourselves as parents!