As a newcomer to Canada, I am now one of 8.6 million fathers in the country. As a father of two teenagers, I am inspired to reflect on the contemporary challenges of parenthood in Europe and Canada.
Since my wife has a full-time job in Toronto and travels there every Monday, returning every Thursday, I have the main duties and the great privilege of taking care of our two children. Father’s Day, June 18th, provides a great opportunity to discuss the challenges involved with parenthood while settling in a new country.
On New Roads to New Insights
Moving from Europe to Canada is challenging and very exciting time – especially when you have a big and very supportive family expecting you, and when you want to settle your new life in this amazing country. Of course, this is a time when important decisions about the future and about career development are contemplated and made.This is also a time when many immigration, administrative, and technical issues must be resolved in order to get your new life settled. The balance between family, restarting professional development, and educational upgrading is complicated. When it is well and thoughtfully completed, however, it will lead to success and personal transformation.
Reading different stories, books, and guidelines about raising children can not provide a universal formula for success – personal experience is invaluable. Trying to understand the emotions and the needs of your children can take a long time: it requires patience, listening, and plenty of dedication. Few people understand that children are the best teachers. From the everyday small choices to the great, fundamental decisions – all of this can be considered fun and inspiring at the same time.
Our children profoundly changed the life of my family. They became the reason for the discovery of new skills and qualities. They are teaching us to be more communicative and sociable, to change our habits, to push us to the limits of our potentials. Although they are very different from one another, they persistently demanded equal and fair treatment and the proportional distribution of the tasks assigned to them and of the responsibilities according to their time.
The ability to say “NO” was one of the most difficult things for me to learn. Two completely different cultures amalgamated in our marriage, which provided me with the unique opportunity to research and enjoy the means for raising our children arising from our home countries’ backgrounds. From crisis to victories, learning secured with real experience enables us to move forward. Everything is about the learning!!!
New Home, New Clothes, New Initiatives
One of the first things we were supposed to do in our new home was organize our apparel – our clothes. I was really stunned by how the people in Canada support each other with clothes and other household belongings. It was wonderful to have such great help at such a crucial moment.
Our children received so many new and used clothes from their cousins. Later, I reflected about the environmental benefits of receiving these clothes when I became a volunteer at Trusted Clothes. However, there is also a big spiritual significance in volunteering, which I discovered during my volunteering in a shelter for homeless men near our house. The importance of sharing clothing is not only in how you look, but also in the idea of common well-being and helping people in need.
The point is to think about the impact of creating and disposing of clothes, and about the concern for people in other countries who produce these clothes for little or almost no pay.
My children were very happy to share some of their clothes with the numerous refugee families in our neighborhood and we continue to share with them.
Periodically we bring bags of clothes to the shelter with homeless people and we share the joy of the people enjoying our support. I was very happy to see that my children are involved with various initiatives supporting local poor and marginalized people with clothes, food, and supplies. It is very notable that such charitable actions are conducted in their schools, where they teach children to serve society. My wife and I are very happy that we could enjoy different vocational institutions, to utilize their advantages.
The differences between the European and Canadian educational school systems are huge; both of them posses their strengths and weaknesses. The school system in my home country Bulgaria is based on a complicated curriculum with really demanding programs and targets. It is also based on traditional models of social behaviour, high expectation of the students, and threat of punishment and sometimes rebuking and criticism. Causing the feeling of guilt is strong and it creates frustration with the students and teachers.
This inevitably leads to resentment, apathy, and rebellion. We were very lucky to discover the only Waldorf school in Bulgaria based on the teachings of Rudolph Stainer, an Austrian educator. This school system seemed to be very efficient for my son and it encouraged him to show and develop many of his talents. He had difficult periods as well. The time spent in the Waldorf school was a time of art, craft, sport, and the refinement of my son’s spiritual qualities. He really grew a lot and began to search for more academical challenges. We were pleased when he decided to move to another school motivated with the desire to save family money and to register for a public school.
In comparison, my older daughter felt completely comfortable with traditional public schools. For both their school memories are among the most pleasant and remarkable moments from Bulgaria.
An Exciting Future of Fatherhood Ahead
Immigrating to Canada and the whole process of adjustment, finding a new job, and transferring the family helped us assess the importance and magnitude of family values. My wife was in Canada for four months, preparing the soil for our move and I was the person in charge of the children during this long period of transition, challenge, mobilization and excitement. Sharing your beliefs with the children is something very emotional, educational, and often not easy for sure.
As a newcomer to Canada who wishes the best for his children (as every parent!), I am really thrilled to be a parent, a father, and to give the best for my family and children. I want them to provide a contribution to the well being of this great country, which includes developing their awareness about the environment and how the clothes they wear can help or hinder it.