Chi-chan's treasure
We are a family of six. My husband and I have four children: a daughter in 5th grade, a son in 4th grade, and a daughter in 2nd grade of elementary school as well as a six-month old daughter. Before we moved to Osaka due to my husband's transfer, I was a member of Division of Infant Education at head office in Tokyo and attended together with my older children almost every day for about 10 years.
While my children have a variety of personalities, my second daughter C is particularly active and beyond categorization. When she did not do anything I told her to do, I often wondered whether she was a normal child and I could not accept her as she was. However, I learned from Mrs. Kaneko that I should try to see and listen to my daughter as she was rather than as I perceived her. I learned that while we tend to try to fit our children into the confines of our own framework, the point in raising children is to broaden the framework of ourselves as parents through our children.
Even after she started school in Osaka, my daughter C remained a free spirit and sometimes took detours on the way home from school that took her a whole hour to return home for a distance that should have taken only about five minutes. As a parent, I often felt distressed about C's behavior and became angry with her without ever asking why she did so.
Every time this happened, I received the advice, "Your daughter has her own personality. Why don't you just ask her how she feels? Don't you want to know how she feels?"
Not venturing to ask how someone feels had been my approach whether it was toward my husband or anybody else. I began to realize that when someone told me something that did not concur with my own views, I become too frustrated and unable to listen.
Recently my daughter C brought home a note from her teacher that said the class would take up the theme "Let's Introduce Our Treasures" as part of their Japanese language study and encouraged each child to bring one of their own treasures in a bag with their name on it, if possible. When I asked my daughter, "What is your treasure, Chi-chan?" she replied that she did not know, and did not give any indication that she was thinking about it at all. Since it was her homework after all, I just left the matter as it was.
On the day she was supposed to take her treasure to school, however, and only 30 minutes before she was to leave, she suddenly came to me and asked, "What shall I do about the treasure? I'm supposed to take it to school today." I told her that is why I had asked her about it earlier and I became cross with her.
When I told my husband about the incident that evening, his response was, "I would kind of like to know what C's treasure is." It was then I realized I was so preoccupied with the idea of presenting the treasure, that I did not even think about wanting to know what C's treasure was. For a moment, I felt quite dejected about my lack in motivation to want to know C's feelings yet again. However, I pulled myself together and asked her. I said, "Chi-chan, what was your treasure after all. I am sorry that I was so preoccupied with getting your treasure ready for school but I would really like to know what you chose as your treasure."
C then told me, "My treasure is my life. But I am embarrassed to say that at school."
I told her, "There is nothing to be embarrassed about that. It is very important."
When I told my husband about what C had said, he said, "I am glad I now know what her treasure is."
The next day, C's teacher told me, "Chi-chan told us her treasure is her life, because it was given to her by her father and mother. I am sure she feels very loved by her family."
It made me very happy to know that C treasures the life passed on to her from her parents, and that she is conscious of life in that context. I believe that this is because I as parent have been taught the importance of continuity of life, and this has also been passed on to our children.
As a parent, I have been learning for a long time about the importance of knowing the fact that other people have their own thoughts and feelings as I have mine. On this occasion, it was only after talking with my husband and listening to his suggestion that I was able to listen to C talk about her feelings about what she cherished most. I am very grateful for this experience.

Children at Doll's Festival in traditional costume
Division of Infant Education

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