We Think We Know Our Children, Until We Don’t

Mina Megawati

3 min read

As parents, have we ever asked ourselves how well we know about our children?

Even when they are growing up well and healthy next to us, it doesn’t mean that we know them well enough. Sometimes parents are just too confident. We think we know everything. But often we still miss the most important things for them, like their comfort and happiness.

Two movies, Jalan yang Jauh Jangan Lupa Pulang (A Long Way, Don’t Forget to Go Home) and its 2020 prequel, Nanti Kita Cerita Tentang Hari Ini (One day We Will Talk About Today), touch my conscience as a mother of a teenage girl.

Both movies, both directed by Angga Dwimas Sasongko, show a struggle of people and each member of a family to communicate and understand each other. They also describe how hard these people try to find happiness.

In Jalan yang Jauh Jangan Lupa Pulang, the center character is Aurora (played convincingly by Sheila Dara).

As a middle child, Aurora has been growing up between her older brother Angkasa (Rio Dewanto) and her little sister Awan (Rachel Amanda). Her life seems good and normal with a father and a mother taking full responsibility to take care of their children.

At a glance, she has nothing to worry about or disappoint her. But deep inside she feels alone, discomfort and unhappy. She is hungry for acknowledgement.

Since childhood she used to give in, rarely getting compliments of her achievement, or for what she has done. But she never speaks it up, or has no chance of sharing her feelings. She keeps silent. Everything she keeps it for herself time after time, year after year.

Until one day…Boom. It explodes like volcano which can’t hold the lava. There is no more room inside for everything she keeps for so long.

She chooses to move to another country for a while. She tells everyone that she wants to study there. But, actually inside her heart she wants to find another home that makes her feel accepted, a new place that makes her feel meaningful and exist.

At least she can live her own life without her father’s shadows. She just wants to show that she can be what she wants and grow up independently.

What happens to Aurora makes me ask myself: “How well do I know my daughter?”. Children have their own complexities; it takes time and patience to recognized them. Even when they say yes to our advice, mostly that doesn’t mean anything yet.

Parents’ Traumatic Experience & Children’s Upbringing

I was trying to get an answer by returning to watch the prequel, Nanti Kita Cerita Tentang Hari Ini. Here I find a fundamental reason why this girl feels uncomfortable even when she lives in a home with a seemingly happy family.

That movie shows us the moment when Aurora’s parents must accept the situation of losing one of their twins. No one is ready for the loss. But the sadness was buried deep inside, and everybody acted as if nothing had happened.  Even though they know, but it just can’t be driven away easily.

Even as father – perceived as the strongest in the family – it was not easy to loss a child. However, if it happens, he is supposed to be able to hide his emotion properly. Father and mother are still human being. They aren’t perfect. They just don’t realize that their daily emotion and behaviors, and how they handle the tragedy can impact to their children mentally.

Since that loss, the father became more overprotective to his children. He’s afraid to experience such a loss again. It’s an unpleasant moment in his life. Overprotective is just one of outcomes of his love to his children. He didn’t realize that he just creating a distance between his children, including Aurora.

This explains why Aurora feels alone, meaningless, disregarded and unappreciated

Seto Mulyadi, a child psychologist, explains this condition in one of his writing when he talks about “suppressing negative emotions”. He explains that an adulthood is shaped by upbringings in childhood in addition to boundaries indoctrinated by the expectation of people around us. In this case, parents educate their children by anything that they believe.  The old believe from their former, but it will spark an inner child unknowingly.

A Lesson for Parents

A complete and functional family, good financial conditions are not a guarantee that everything will run smoothly. Angkasa, Aurora, and Awan have a wonderful family. They own a really good and responsible father who always being there for them, and a heartful mother that always support them in doing anything in life.

As a mother, this movie feels so special for me. I can feel the message delivered by each character. This movie also shows how people are struggling to overcome problems in their life, and how hard they are trying to find their respective happiness.

The most important thing isn’t how perfect we live this life but how much we could accept everything which isn’t perfect. Everything comes with a reason. At the end of the day, it comes down to be about understanding and being understood.

Mina Megawati

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