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by Caroline Cuinet-Wellings
Posted on 19 June 2013

My daughter was born in Dubai, I am French, my husband is British and we live in Malaysia. Our family situation is not uncommon, many families are living away from their country of origin, with their children being born “all over the place”. So, my family is in France, my husband’s is in the UK and Australia, our friends are scattered around the world, from the US, to Africa, to the UAE and to Australia. We make it work. The world today has wonderful inventions such as the world wide web and Skype, and all of the other social medias that are available to us and allow us to share our lives with our loved ones (and also to the rest of the world, but that could become another topic of conversation…)

This life, this choice we have made to live away from our country (or countries in our case) give our daughter and other kids to come (eek!) exceptional experiences. My daughter, before being born, in the comfort of my womb, had already flown into 4 different countries. I feel a little sad when I know that her first memories will be starting now and that she will have forgotten her first three years of her life in Dubai. The photos are there, the lovely friends we made there are still our dear friends for many years to come, but indeed, except if she looks at photos, she won’t remember a thing. Or will she? Not in a way that she will be able to tell us I remember that day when we went there etc… but in a way that her experiences there and the people she has interacted with, spent time with have managed to shape who she is today and for years to come. The brain is a powerful thing in humans and we are yet to discover all that it is capable of. But as we know the process of memorising is related to all of our senses and how our experiences have “shaped” them: seeing, touching, feeling, smelling, hearing.

This morning, my daughter surprised me. On our way to school, I mentioned Delia, a lovely lady who used to babysit Leila when we were in Dubai. She told me she remembered that she had a phone with a pen to use it with and that she had showed her how to use it. I know that happened. I gave my phone to Delia when I bought a new one. I remember too. Leila remembers this because she had a certain experience of it that Delia shared with her. I wouldn’t have remembered that!

Recently, we took a trip to Langkawi with some dear friends of ours from Dubai. I was wondering if she would ‘remember” her two friends. We had seen them on Skype a few times after we had left but were they going to get along? Well, it’s like no time had passed at all and these three little cheeky monsters enjoyed their time together like they had never left each other’s sight.

Cuddle on beach in Dubai

A goodbye kiss after a party in Dubai

The three musketeers in Sri Lanka for a holiday

Reunited in Langkawi

Yes, people are far away but as far as memory goes, I know that my daughter will remember them because of what she has experienced with them, and what she keeps experiencing with them, even from a distance. She may not remember the Burj Al Arab and how it stands tall, proud and shiny on a Friday morning when we used to go to the beach with our friends, but she loves the beach and misses it a lot since we have been here.

She might not remember how “unique” the Christmas tree she made with my mum two years ago was. But she does remember that she needs to put a star at the very top because that’s what she did then.

She might not remember a name of someone she met only once, or twice or perhaps three times, but she enjoys the stories that I can tell her about what she did or she went to with them.

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