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
Addicted to traveling with her husband and two daughters, Phairis has visited more than 20 countries while in the UAE, including stays in Myanmar, Laos and Romania. Phairis started the Extra Bag Community on Facebook to encourage people to research whatever donations are needed at their destination, whether it is clothing or school supplies, and then find a place to distribute them upon arrival.