February: The Month to Grow Family Love and Laughter (Part I)

Childhood photos part of my "Joy bank" - my first day in Chiang Kai Shek pre-nursery; my "tomboy" years in preschool; my special day with my Dad at Manila Hotel when my siblings and Mom all travelled together; awarding in St. Jude with Fr. Yang, who also baptized me

February has always been a special month for me because it is my birth month.  I have shared in a previous article how I was supposed to have another sibling, supposedly a boy, before me, but my mother had a miscarriage. I heard my mother really wanted a boy, so was a bit sad when I turned out to be a girl. I am not sure if that is the reason, but after I was borne, I was supposedly left in the nursery for almost a year.  But thanks to the loving people around me, whom I constantly honor also in my previous articles, I have always “celebrated” my birth each year with combined “poignancy” and gratitude.  Special shout out to the midwives in the nursery, who were total strangers, but probably hugged me a lot and gave me a lot of warm care!

I have always associated February with the color red, not because of Valentine’s, but because RED was my favorite color when I was growing up and my birthday has always been that time where I magnify all that life has blessed me with.  Regardless of the state I am in that year, and especially when I face difficult years, my childhood of simple laughter would always be something that I would go back to and also draw strength from on my special day, and for that coming year.  Through the years during my birth month, I would visit my Grandfather and Grand Aunt’s urn spots at the temple or go to Tasty’s Dumpling by myself or visit the laundry and ironing area in my childhood home, where my nanny, Manang Eyang and I spent the most time during my toddler and preschool years. This time of stepping back to my quiet space, has always allowed me to cry again if I felt like it, then move on to gratitude, then always ending up with funneling all these emotions to grow more love and laughter to the people I love, especially my family.

This February, I found it timely to share my thoughts and practical ways on why and how to grow family love and laughter. Let me start with the “Why”

Mental health problems have become a “closer-to-home” issue for many families. The extremely prolonged lockdown of children in the Philippines out of physical school and face-to-face social interactions has had different effects on each child.  

When it comes to parenting, my children’s mental and emotional health have always been my main priority.  I felt early on that patiently building “body-mind-heart” blocks for my children were equally, if not more important, than academic enrichment.  My hope is for these efforts to help each of my children to have strong inner cores, to find their passions and to courageously go through life without limits.

This became even more important when I found out in 2018 from a talk I attended in New York that Depression will be the no. 1 health issue by 2030 based on the World Health Organization. I studied how my children could be prepared for the complexities of emotions they might encounter, especially during their adolescent and teenage lives. My most critical take-home…children can be supported best by the warmth and security of family love, and the warm memories when they laugh and learn that they get to "deposit" in their hearts and minds. 

But before I go further, I want to share first that if we want to have emotionally-strong children, we also need to work on being emotionally-strong ourselves.  One practical way is building our own “Joy Bank”. Try to list your happiest moments in our lives.  This “Joy Bank” allows us to have a purse to draw out any small or major happy moments amidst facing current emotional issues. The second is, face our hurts by listing them all down.  Push to forgive those who have hurt you, but more importantly, push to forgive yourself for allowing others to hurt you.  

Before I end part one of this topic, let me share to you my speech to my friends on my 35th birthday.  I was at one of the saddest points in my life but I pushed myself to see joy…

First of all, thanks for coming. Since this will be my only party for at least another 10 years, allow me to be a bit poetic. Yesterday, I said goodbye to what was. Today I embrace the freedom to define what true family is. It is not blood. It is the genuine unconditionality of accepting who we are and being there for each other no matter what. I thank each and every one of you for letting me realize that life is and will always be good.

Through the years, I lived by my many philosophies. All of you know my rigidity, my intensity and my stubbornness. I have my own thought process and I value my personal bubble.  So, I just want to thank all of you, especially my loving husband, for putting up with me. You are truly my rock.

Lastly but definitely not the least, I would like to take time to thank my family, my kids, especially my dad, for being strong for us and for always believing in me. My sister, Joan, who I am very proud of. And of course, my Amah, aunts and uncles, who have been great examples to me.

So, today, let's raise our glasses because today is truly a new beginning of love and passion. 

Back to blog