10/08/2014 11:42 am ET Updated Dec 08, 2014

Why You Don't Need 'It All' to Be Happy

Jacobo Zanella via Getty Images

I used to cringe at the thought of my dad driving up to my high school to pick me up in his broken down, 1980-something station wagon. The thing was so old that when the rain poured from the sky, we had to cover parts of its roof to keep it from reaching the inside of the car. He worked in construction. My mom washed laundry for a living. And I was what America would consider a normal Mexican-American kid hailing from the "poorest" city in the United States -- Brownsville, Texas.

I grew up wearing hand-me-downs and eating from dollar menus, and I was often left wishing for more toys under the Christmas tree, a little more time spent with my mom and a little less worries going on at home. You'd think I'd say I didn't have much -- I lived in a trailer home, I shopped at thrift stores and my family survived off food stamps. But the truth is like this:

My mother was never home because she constantly worked night shifts at a nursing home. My father clocked countless hours putting tile and flooring at homes just to get minimal hours of sleep and go back to doing it again the next day. When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she worked up to the very last day before her mastectomy to earn one final paycheck. When my father's right leg was amputated, he could not wait till the day when he was able to start making money for his family again.

I learned that it was OK to travel by a city bus. I learned that it was OK not to go on vacations every year. And I learned that it was OK not to have a $5 pen or a $120 pair of shoes.

I understood that my parents wanted to give me more and I knew I deserved more. But I was still happy.

And that's the thing -- sons and daughters, whether young or old, don't need "it all" to be happy. They will want it all -- a part of me still wishes I had it all given to me during my childhood -- but I'm still happy.

It's not OK to stress over the fact that your child doesn't have the latest game system, hasn't brought a new pair of shoes in a month or will not be getting a car for their 16th birthday. It's the little things that count. It's the moments in which you do everything in your power for you children to persevere through their triumphs and there failures that makes them who they are and who they will be long after you're gone.

Enjoy each and every moment you have with them whether they still live at home, go to college or are only able to visit during the holiday. Trust me, they yearn for these moments more than you will ever know whether they are coming home to a house with no cable or a mansion full to its capacity. You are what matters. You are what they want. And you are what they need.