“We’re not perfect, but there is hope from going from not wanting to talk at all to, now, my parents are my best friends.”
Throughout her childhood in Malaysia, Moriah (Names changed for privacy) felt like she was the odd one out of her family.
Her older brother seemed to fit into her family more than she did, and it seemed like she didn’t belong. Moriah was too young to know how to verbalise her desire for attention from her family, so she distanced herself. For years, she refused to talk to her parents, locking herself in her room after quickly eating dinner every night. It didn’t take long for her relationship with her parents to become strained and bitter.
“I felt very neglected, and I think that turned into a lot of resentment,” Moriah says. “I felt like I was adopted at some point — that I was the child that was not wanted.”
As a father, Aaron wasn’t sure what to do about his daughter and the fights they were having. He came from a traditional Asian background where children were often “talked down to, seen, and not heard,” and he didn’t understand why Moriah was reacting the way she did. In a move of desperation, he and his wife decided to send their daughter to counselling through Focus on the Family Malaysia.
However, the solution they discovered was not what they expected.
“After talking with Focus, we realised that it’s not her who needed counselling,” Aaron explains. “It was me and my wife. Instead, maybe it was something to do with our parenting.”
Aaron and his wife wanted to form a healthier bond with their daughter, so they decided to participate in some of Focus’ family programmes. Their first attempt was to send Moriah and her mum to a mother daughter event when Moriah was 10 years old. The event was a series of speakers, and Moriah felt like she was being dragged to the programme. She sat silent and unmoved throughout the night, unconvinced by the messages being spoken.
A year later, Aaron and his wife tried again. This time, the mother daughter event was a two day camping trip. Like before, Moriah didn’t feel impacted during most of the weekend. But then a surprise came in the final moments of the retreat — she and her mum had a breakthrough.
“It was the first time in my life that I told my mum I felt neglected,” Moriah says. “We were literally packing our tents, and we were having a fight of some sort, and I told her, ‘You don’t care about me.’ And I think that’s when my parents started to get an inkling that I felt neglected as a child.”
After the event, Moriah’s relationship with her mum started to improve, but her relationship with Aaron still struggled. They would get into screaming fights that had no end in sight, both too stubborn to concede. Eventually, Aaron convinced Moriah to attend one of Focus’ father daughter events with him, bribing her with a new dress if she came.
Finally, after attending Focus’ event, they started to mend some of the brokenness in their relationship. Aaron learned about love languages and how to better communicate with his daughter, and he realised that sometimes it is better to agree to disagree during fights than battle through every argument like a war. Moriah began to see that she wasn’t as abandoned as she always believed. She remembered how her father was present throughout her life, always sitting front row at her piano recitals, taking photos. Gradually, the two realised that they simply show love in different ways.
A Focus counsellor that used to work with the family saw the relational progress that Aaron and Moriah had made after a couple years of growth. Realising that their story could help impact more families in Malaysia, she encouraged them to share their story at one of Focus’ father daughter events.
“I think initially we were quite reluctant to do it simply because we were not perfect in any way,” Moriah says. “But I think sharing our story made us see that, yeah we’re not perfect, but there is hope from going from not wanting to talk at all to, now, my parents are my best friends.”
Before long, Aaron and Moriah were not just guest speakers at Focus’ father daughter events — they emceed the whole programme. They shared their story to countless families, showing how their relationship changed after learning how to love each other better. Focus sparked hard conversations that led to healing for their family, and Aaron and Moriah wanted to open up those conversations and provide hope for other struggling families moving forward.
“By sharing our struggles, we can help give to others,” Aaron says. “We feel that Focus has done a lot for us, so it was a chance for us to go and give back to other families as well.”
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