In the summer of 2011 my Japanese wife and my two daughters moved from Tokyo to live together with me in the Canary Islands in Spain.
The youngest of the family, Hana, was only 3 years old at the time and didn't really notice the change that much. In just a few months she was fluent in Spanish and had become the most popular girl in her class. My wife liked some things about our new place and missed other things from Japan and from living in a big cosmopolitan city. But Hikari, my eldest daughter, took the worst part. She was 8 years old, had many friends in Japan, and didn't speak Spanish at all. It was a real culture shock for her and she found the educational system so different that she didn't want to go to school.
After one year, she spoke Spanish (not as well as her younger sister), was afraid of the teacher, and didn't have any friends. She played alone in the playground and when she was home she didn't want to go outside. She just watched TV or played with video games. Her personality changed so much that my wife and I seriously considered going back to Japan. She looked always tired, sad, even old, for her age. I felt guilty for having made her leave her friends, her country, her freedom, because in Japan she could move more freely than in Spain. It broke my heart to see her suffering, feeling so lonely.
After talking about my daughter with my friend Gabriela Maldonado, I realized that my suffering and my being continually worried about Hikari didn't help her at all. In fact it prevented me from being fully present with her. So, once I saw that, I changed. Instead of feeling sorry for her I started to see my daughter's resilience and wellbeing beneath her actual suffering. And I started to be more present with her and to be more fun for her. In a way we became friends and looked forward to spend some time together at night in her bedroom talking about the day, the school, the girls in her class, life in general. In our conversations I always mentioned that what we think it doesn't have to be true, we don't have to take it so seriously, even when she thought, and "knew for sure" that she could never have friends in Spain, that was only a thought, and things would change with time.
I applied the same ideas to everything that worried her- tests, friends, teachers, whatever. But more than with words I shared these ideas with my attitude, because now I wasn't that worried about her. Now I knew she would be OK.
Gradually she started to develop the same attitude. Having friends ceased to be an issue, and she made a few good friends. The teacher, who was really stressed up sometimes, ceased to be an issue and his attitude changed towards her, even her grades improved.
And I have to say that it was a relief for me to see her smile and see her eyes bright more often than before. Hikari was like a butterfly opening her little wings day by day.
But though she didn't feel sad and lonely like before, still sometimes she had a heavy feeling around her. Hikari dreamt of being a dancer, a singer, a top model. But she was painfully shy. At least she thought she was. And she didn't dare to sing or to dance in front of anyone (only when she was alone). Even though she went twice a week to hip hop lessons she didn't want me to watch her. And she didn't dance as well as she could.
At night time in her bedroom I told her again and again, that there is not such a thing as a shy dancer or a singer (at least when she is dancing or singing). I told her every night that if she wanted to make her dreams come true she had to forget about being shy. Because it is not true anyway. It is just a thought that is powerful only if you pay too much attention to it.
Then one day we went to have dinner with Alicia, a friend of mine that is an actress. I could see the way Hikari looked at her when we were eating. She admired her. After dinner Alicia sang a beautiful Russian song, and when she finished I looked at Hikari and told her, "Now it is your turn. You know you can sing. And you know you love singing." Hikari hesitated and then after Alicia and I insisted she started singing with the most powerful voice, with the brightest eyes, with the most beautiful smile. She also danced with the music. It was magic.
I've never seen her look so happy, she was glowing...
"I feel so proud of myself!"-she told me- "Now I know I can do anything I want!"
And she meant it. She changed completely after that night. She became happy, confident, and strong. A different person, or maybe I should say, a real butterfly...
Antonio Luis Gomez