What makes a happy child?

When my daughter was two, I had read somewhere that there were a few good gauge questions to pose to a child (not necessarily a two-year-old), in order to assess his/her emotional and intellectual maturity. (I had been thinking about this because so many people around us were telling us that our child, at two years, was speaking and thinking like a child who was a lot older.) One of these questions is, “Are you happy?” You could tell a lot about a child by the way s/he answered this and the follow-up question, “Why?”

So one day, I asked her, “Are you a happy child?”, and my two-year-old responded, “Yes, I am.” I asked, “Why?” And without missing a beat, as if she had been waiting for this question, she responded, “Because you love me.”

Fast-forward to this month, when my recently-turned-three-year-old son asked me a few weeks ago, in his usual, out-of-the-blue way, “What is ‘forever?'”—one of those charming questions that toddlers ask. I attempted to answer as best as I could the concept of “forever” to a toddler, and then forgot all about it. But a couple of days ago, on his way out of the house with his sister and papa for a rare day out without mama, he turned to me and all of a sudden said, “I’ll love you forever, Mama.”

I felt at that moment that essentially, he had just answered the same question that his sister had when she was two, in the same way, without me having to pose it to him directly.

Happy children, indeed. Happy mama.