M'sian City Life #22: What My 2-Year-Old Daughter Taught Me About Life

"It’s funny to see how we forget to be happy and love ourselves as we go through this journey of life."

Cover image via Carl Lim

I've been eager to write this post for quite some time, though it's not on how I wanted to parent my daughter, but more on her impact on me.

While I was writing this post, my daughter was sitting beside me while she repeatedly hit the home button on my laptop. She was laughing happily while she was at it too. If this were to happen in the past, I would've gotten mad and yelled at her.

Before she came along, my wife used to ask me what kind of parent I would be.

I didn't have an exact answer back then, but I did tell her that I would be a stern, angry and stubborn kind of dad.

Image via Carl Lim

Truth be told, I was nothing like that. When my daughter Cassandra arrived, she changed the way I perceived parenting. She made me understand more about myself.

I used to think that training and grooming the next generation works best with the top-down approach. In a working environment, there would be people that are lost when given responsibility; they would fear failure, and they would seek guidance from seniors that have much more experience, which really isn't a bad thing.

Parenting is different, it's not really about finding the best solution or the fastest way to solve an issue.

Parenting is growing with your child

Cassandra is constantly curious, learning while having fun. It’s simply amazing to see how she can stare at the ceiling fan for 10 minutes.

It feels like I'm reliving my childhood as an adult.

It helps me reflect on how I train and guide people too. What can I do to make everyone stay curious and solve problems while having fun? I suppose this would be a lifelong lesson.

Happiness is a choice, not a goal

Cassandra lying down randomly with Charcoal.

Image via Carl Lim

I used to tie happiness with achievements. Regardless of what processes or obstacles that I needed to go through, I’ll be happy as long as I’m achieving my goal.

But not anymore.

It was last year that I realised how terribly wrong I was. I realised that happiness is not about what you achieve – it’s just enjoying what you do.

It’s surprising to see how Cassandra does this naturally. She’s basically happy just being herself. She would be happy just by petting Charcoal or eating tasty food. She would be happy just by doing random stuff.

She reminded me that you don’t need a reason to be happy. You just need to be happy.

Happiness was never about how many medals you collected in life, but it’s merely a decision you made. It is no wonder why everyone is talking about how you need to love yourself before you can love others.

It’s funny to see how we forget to be happy and love ourselves as we go through this journey of life.

There is nothing wrong with saying "no"

Image via Carl Lim

The most annoying word that Cassandra ever learnt was the word "bu yao". "Bu yao" means don’t want in Chinese (Mandarin). For parents and caretakers, it means a lot of trouble when you're feeding her.

She would be exercising her rights in using that term, saying no to this and that. Sometimes it feels like she’s my parent instead of the other way around.

But here’s the thing, despite the pressures of growing up in a traditional family (meaning she would have grandparents and parents that "forcefully" feed her), she would still say no to things that she doesn't like.

When we try to understand her better, we got to know her thoughts and preferences, such as she prefers eggs to rice, or she loves to eat nuts. She triggered this communication.

Essentially, there's nothing wrong in saying no to things that you don't agree. Instead, take the opportunity to explore the way you communicate while you search for explanations.

Appreciate everyone with the simplest gestures

Photo for illustration purposes only.

Image via Pathways

Cassandra would say thank you to people who wiped our table. She would also tell strangers and family members to be careful while walking down the stairs.

While it sounds random coming from a 2-year-old kid, she was often rewarded with bigger smiles and a few pats on her head while she was told that she was "pannai" (local Cantonese slang for "smart"). As funny as it sounds, we had even gotten several discounts for the food we ordered because of her.

Image via SHA

I could still recall that there was this time when we visited a child specialist and there was a dedicated play section. Since we were there early and there was no other patient around, Cassandra gets to hog the whole playground.

As time passed, more and more kids came and each and every one of them charted their own territory. This funny daughter of mine did this – she started picking up toys and sharing it with others (with delivery service!).

I was awestruck.

This incident taught me two things:
1. You can always do more, even when there is no expectation.
2. Do it because your heart says so.

Many times we are often clouded by material gains and lost sight on what it truly means to be human. Sometimes, you're not doing it for the money but you’re doing it simply because you want to.

She gave me a new pair of lens to view the world

Photo for illustration purposes only.

Image via Entrepreneur

This post wasn’t written to flaunt about my daughter, but more of a reflection on my values and how she impacted my world views.

Undeniably, having a daughter like her is the sweetest gift I ever have. She taught me to look at the world in a new perspective. Instead of viewing it through my old lens, I’ll be viewing it with the eye of a child but with an adult mindset in this journey of life – curious yet excited.

The full article originally appeared on

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Previously on Malaysian City Life #21, George Chong shared about his passion for gardening and why he chose to beautify the garbage disposal room at his apartment complex:

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