"5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Goodnight"
This is a ritual we have at the Hori household before sleeping—you see, we all go to bed at the same time. My five children, however, continue to talk and giggle even in the darkness. When it's time to get to sleep, its dad's role to say something like:
"You guys will get a spanking if you keep talking after the countdown."
After the warning has been issued, I start the countdown and say goodnight. The boys whisper "goodnight," and in the silent darkness, I fall asleep after a few minutes.
I've recently found happiness in moments of daily life like this one.
"Let's have a moment of silence."
I've made it a rule to say this when all family members are seated around the dinner table. Because children are usually playing or fighting right up to dinner time, they're not calm when they sit down for a meal. If we start dinner right away, their wildness continues at the dinner table.
This is why I came up with the "moment of silence." If the boys are fidgeting, we have a longer moment of silence, and sometimes, it's easily more than a minute. Of course, if they talk during this time, I don't hesitate to spank them. Unfortunately, the boys don't seem to listen without this threat.
After the moment of silence, I, as head of the household, say a few words. Then we say together, "We give thanks to the living things that gave up life for our meal." Then the quiet dinner table turns lively.
Since our five kids (ages 3–11) are growing, the proportion of income that goes into food, Engel's coefficient, is dramatically rising. Still, I want them to grow up healthy by eating as much domestic organic food as possible. Of course, they're also expected to clean their plates.
I treasure these moments during meals.
Since the fifth son finally graduated from diapers, we can all go together to a swimming pool. To be honest, I would like them to join a swimming club. But since they each have different levels of ability, they would be assigned to different classes, which would create very challenging logistics. In addition, the neighborhood swimming club was closed because of land speculation, and all the other clubs are far from where we live.
So, we decided to go to a swimming pool together. As my schedule permits, I take the boys swimming. We can only use the pool after six on weekdays because it's an elementary school pool. Nevertheless, I decided to find the time to go swimming at least once every two weeks. Recently, the two older boys can handle the same practice routine I follow. With "ready, set, go—" we all start together. After practicing with the two older boys, I have a swimming lesson with the third and fourth sons.
I very much cherish these moments.
I also try to be involved in taking them to and from places as often as possible. The oldest son has started to attend a cram school for junior high school entrance exams; when I'm home early, I pick him up. Also, I drop by the second and third son's Go and tennis lessons on the way home from work whenever possible.
I often have heart-to-heart conversations with the kids during casual moments such as when I'm driving them to and from their lessons and cram school.
According to an American Ph.D. in education who I know of, these moments, which seem ordinary, are quite important since children can open their hearts.
These everyday moments often bring me happiness, like Go practice after eating, playing video games or watching a movie together, or playing in the park.
I feel that when I find such simple joys in daily life, things will start going better; if I go to work with this sense of fulfillment, I can communicate with people with greater sensitivity.
At the same time, I am discovering many simple pleasures at work as well; moments such as when customers and companies we have invested in say "thank you". Or when I can sense the staff is feeling good about their work, or when I engage in a heartwarming exchange with students and instructors.
Of course, whenever the economic situation deteriorates, a sense of uncertainty permeates society. Nevertheless, we can still find small joys everywhere.
At a seminar for entrepreneurs, I was asked, "What is the definition of success?" I don't think it's necessary to define success. If I feel I've had a good life when my time is up, that's good enough for me. I don't think it's necessary to define happiness, either. If we try to pursue some grand image of happiness, we will have to define what we mean by success as well.
There have been recent reports of a successful music producer being arrested for fraud and a wealthy, successful individual losing a fortune in the sub-prime meltdown.
I think that being able to experience the small joys of daily life is happiness itself. No further definition is needed. You never know what will happen in life. You never know about success either. I think failure starts the moment you think you have achieved success. Once people think they are successful, they tend to rest on their laurels and no longer try as hard.
It's better to find the small joys in daily life without pursuing success and grand images of happiness and to move forward step by step, steadily and modestly.
Up to now, I didn't understand the expression "savor the moment." But after the children were born and I had a family, I certainly began having moments that I genuinely savored.
But these simple joys do not last long. In the future, our kids will leave home and there will be fewer opportunities to see them. The once lively dinner table and bedroom will become quiet.
Well, nothing lasts forever in life. But that's not so bad because the next small joy is just around the corner. Rather than worrying about the future, I'd like to enjoy life by savoring its moments.
November 11, 2008