This week, nostalgia has completely taken over as our daughter will celebrate her birthday, which we have been reminded of daily for the last 2 weeks. I have found myself sifting through old pregnancy photos, photos from the day she was born, and all the birthdays that came before this one. It sounds so cliché’ but the time really has gone by so fast. I look at her, this independent and amazingly clever little girl who tells me each night that she is going to rule the world, and wonder where the time has gone. I couldn’t be prouder of her, and our son, who tells us he is going to change the world.

I hope each will do wonderful things in their lives and allow their hearts to lead them to exactly where they are supposed to be. Of course, I joke with friends that as long as they don’t grow up to be criminals or live in my basement at 40, I have done my part.

Looking through all the photos, I was reminded of so many moments, memories we have made through the years. As life got busy and we found ourselves navigating through tough times, the memories faded a bit. It was a good reminder to be thankful, for the good and the bad.

A lot of life has been lived in the 5 years since our daughter’s birth, particularly with all the changes this year.

Recently, someone reached out to me asking if I would do an interview with them about what life looks like now as an expat, particularly considering the current state of politics. I agreed to do the interview but knew I wanted to be prepared. I wanted to use the opportunity to talk about people, humanity, and changing the dialogue as opposed to feeding into the current narrative.

As I was preparing, it took me back to those early discussions we had, ultimately deciding to relocate our family abroad. At one point during my preparations, our son grabbed me by the hand and took me to his room. He had opened the blinds and positioned a chair to look straight out the window. He asked me to come watch the sunrise with him.

Choking back tears, I sat and held him while we watched the sun come up. It was one of those moments that photos can’t capture, that will be forever engraved in my memory.

It was also everything I needed to prepare for that interview.

Months ago, when we decided to change our entire lives, it wasn’t a decision that we came to overnight and spent weeks agonizing over what it might look like for our family. We took everything into consideration, weighing the pros and cons. As we prepared for the move, we discussed the changes and adjustments we knew we were likely to face and of course, there have been things we didn’t quite prepare ourselves for. We knew this was something we wanted to do for our children and made a commitment to see it through.

When you are a parent, there is another layer to any discussion as you consider the well-being of the entire family, particularly your children.

Our decision became less about what we were giving up and more about what our children would gain.

I once heard someone liken parenting to being a flight attendant: if the plane is crashing and the flight attendant remains calm, it is likely those around will also remain calm. We take our cues from those entrusted to guide us. And, when you are the one standing in front of the proverbial plane, asking those on board to trust you, it is imperative that you have the capacity to do so.

We knew our decision would change the entire trajectory of our lives and we had to be intentional about discussing all those changes with our children. We empowered ourselves to listen and empathize, understanding that each of us would struggle from time to time. What was difficult for one person, was a breeze for another, and vice versa.

We confidently led from the front of the plane.

As I sat in front of that window in our new home with our son, watching the sun come up over the horizon, the only thing that mattered was so clear – creating a world for our children where systematic abuse, oppression and inequality are replaced by love, respect, empathy, and understanding. Where unity is more important than political rhetoric and leaders are held accountable to promote inclusion as opposed to division.

Our decision was about having a voice and changing the conversation. If the only people who hear that voice is our children, then we have accomplished everything we set out to do – affecting change exactly where we can.

But, this experience has also taught me much more than I ever expected. I knew it would take strength but what I learned is far more important than being strong or making bold choices – the art of listening and the ability to empathize with others. Life lessons I will quietly celebrate as we are blowing out the candles of a massive purple unicorn cake in a few days.

This week, let’s put this to practice with an empathy challenge. Each day, challenge yourself to try and understand what someone else may be going through in their own life, especially if you are struggling with your response to their situation. Reach out. Lend an ear. And simply, listen.

I would love to hear about your experiences and the conversations you are having.

When we change the conversation, we change the world.

Cheers to a new week.

PS. I’ve decided the first thing I am going to try to understand better (and do my best to learn to appreciate) are shopping carts that drive sideways! Story for another time.

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