Starting Anew: Discovering Family

Stories of beginning again for moving into 2018

by SHFamily | Tue, January 09, 2018

By Jenna Schmitt

As we ring in the New Year with holidays in the East and West, it’s a traditional moment to reflect on time itself: how we measure it, control it, plan it, and ultimately, just hang on and experience its passing. Particularly in Shanghai, we are often asked to start over more than our loved ones back home, beginning again and adapting to change, voluntarily or not. New relationships, new jobs, and an ever-evolving environment can bring overwhelming struggles just as quickly as they bring thrilling opportunities.

Whether you’re still unpacking your suitcase or have already made Shanghai your long-time home, each year will have difficult moments — or months — that make life here a challenging process rather than a nite task. 2017 brought intimidating changes, new discoveries, and fresh beginnings for each of us. But the joy of welcoming a new year flows from sharing stories of both the ups and downs, so we’ve gathered a few reflections — from our readers, for our readers.

In part one, we meet Arthur Burnand and his family.

Discovering family

Arthur Burnand and Son

As a first-time parent, how do you know if you’re doing things “right”? Starting a family while living far from your own means navigating an entirely new set of responsibilities with less direct support. From illness to international travel, the difficulties are intimidating. For Arthur Burnand, a real estate professional, and his entrepreneur wife Georgina, the nerves of becoming new parents took some time to adjust to, but now they keep things simple with their one-year-old son Archie. “Did he smile today? Then he’s fine,” Burnand chuckles. “He’s been to a music festival, he’s skied . . . I’ve become a lot more laidback, because I had to be.” Last year, Burnand welcomed the role of fatherhood with impatient energy.

“I was super excited. Being a new dad is the best thing in the world. Fortunately, it hasn’t been as tough as I’m sure it could be, and those tough moments I do have are cancelled out by all the great ones.”

As any parent can fondly remember, beginning this role is a mix of personal self-discovery and developing a relationship with a brand-new family member. “I think we’re creating a bond where he loves me and knows I’m his dad, but he still tries to play me. Just today, he knew I was busy but he was running around trying to get attention . . . maybe like his father,” Burnand pulls a sheepish grin. “When I did go over [to calm him] he played cool like his mum, but I do feel like we’re building a filial respect.”

Child Playing

While Burnand is based in Shanghai, his wife is an established media personality and entrepreneur in Manila, meaning international commutes have become the norm to maximize family time together. “It’s a modern expat phenomena,” he remarks, “but I feel like I spend enough time with him that I’ll be able to instill the values that I want to be living myself . . . that is extremely important, and I enjoy it. Today, I gave him a bath and we built a castle — well, a fort with pillows.”

Some of the family refers to Burnand as a “Tiger Dad” but to watch father and son interact or share lunch breaks in the office, it’s clear that Burnand is genuinely eager to share his interests and family traditions with Archie.

“I was brought up with tough love and I believe in tough love . . . both my mum and dad were strict at times, but I love them more than anything. I want to be that person; a good mentor who will tell you how it is and won’t sugarcoat anything.”

This year, a sense of discovery will take a new form, as Burnand hopes to watch his son attach meaning to the world around him, and identify a few of his own interests and preferences for the first time. “I’m just super proud of him, and of my wife. They’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me . . . but [this year] I do hope he starts enjoying some elements of rugby.”

Want more? Meet David Hinton as he embraces creativity and Anna Dixon as she re-discovers passion in 2018.