A friend asked me, months ago, what I was doing to raise such thoughtful kids. It was both a compliment and a question. I did thank her, but I didn’t answer the question, simply because it wasn’t easily answered. You see, I didn’t think it had much to do with me. Or my husband. Nor the two of us combined. It seemed to be so much more than that. But today my 12-year-old daughter taught me that actually it is me. It is my husband. The two of us together and her as well. Today, she stood up in front of her entire school and gave a speech. Her talk was about the three things she’s learned from living six years in the UAE. Here’s what she said:
- Have an open mind.
- Be grateful.
- Seize every opportunity.
Of course, she flushed out all three points, telling stories about misconceptions some Westerners have about Emiratis and the Middle East. She talked about how, after a trip to Indonesia, she began to feel grateful for what she has. And she spoke of all the opportunities she’s had both in school and outside of school. One of those opportunities, for her, is helping the street cats. And that’s what she sees them as, an opportunity. Through them she’s learned how to fundraise to have them spayed and neutered and how to physically care for the cats that we’ve fostered.
Listening to her speech I realized that actually yes, it is me, it is my husband, it is us together. We brought her to Abu Dhabi to live. We have discovered dozens of countries together. We provide her the opportunity to volunteer her time and donate school supplies in developing nations. We seek ways to make her experiences more meaningful in Abu Dhabi and beyond. In Abu Dhabi we talk about and try to meet people from every socio-economic group, not just our own, because it helps us truly appreciate how fortunate we are.
We talk about how empowering it is to acknowledge people, especially those who help us at the grocery store or the gas station. And when we travel we don’t think of it as escaping our everyday life. Instead, we think of it as embracing the amazing new culture we are in. Supporting businesses that are owned by locals. Visiting the museums that show the often tragic history of a country. Sometimes, taking items that are easy for us to buy and giving them to people who need them. Talking, talking, talking to the residents we meet. Acknowledging them, seeing them, thanking them.
So a question to ask yourself as a parent is, how do you do it? And how can you keep doing it?
Featured photo: Unsplash
It was yet another cold and rainy night in Vancouver that sent Phairis Sajan and her family in search of warmth and adventure in the UAE. After five years, Phairis is still loving the diversity of people and experiences on offer, and life as an expatriate in Abu Dhabi. She’s addicted to traveling with her husband and two daughters, having visited more than 20 countries while in the UAE, including stays in Myanmar, Laos and Romania. The family is adept at traveling on a budget, choosing serviced apartments and preparing their own food over hotels where possible, and finding ways to give back to the communities they visit wherever they can. To that end, Phairis started the Extra Bag Community on Facebook, to encourage others in following her family’s lead of taking an extra bag packed with everything from clothes to school supplies. Phairis makes sure to research each country she visits before hand, finding out what is needed most, and once there, she and her husband visit a school or charitable organization with their girls and drop off their donation. Phairis is on the advisory board at Raha International School, and her family is active in helping to rehabilitate, spay and neuter and foster for adoption many of the stray cats in their neighborhood. Phairis is addicted to self-awareness podcasts – Tony Robbins and Tim Ferris are favorites – and loves doing yoga. Before leaving Canada she was a TV news producer. She also loves to make home movies and document her family’s vacations, just like they used to do in the good old days, but with much better cameras and editing software.