In January 2020, Abraham Antony, his wife and two daughters immigrated to Canada from Thailand.
The family prepared to adapt to a new way of life and was excited to “have a place to call home.” Over the span of 11 years, they have moved countries four times.
“Little did we know what lay ahead,” says Antony. “The next year was a weird mixture of enforced stillness while we also rushed through many milestones.”
His children saw snow for the first time, his youngest daughter started school in Toronto, and in November, the family welcomed a baby boy.
“(We) weren’t sure how we would be able to manage,” says Antony.
“The silver lining was that we were able to connect and do things together we’d never had time for before.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, parents have had to work from home or in essential jobs while homeschooling their children, and they’ve had to adjust their expectations of what parenting looks like.
For this Father’s Day, Global News spoke to some dads in Canada about the challenges and rewards of parenting during a pandemic, and the things they’ve learned about their kids along the way.
Allan Fernandez, a coordinator for Shaw Communications living in Burnaby, B.C., has been working from home since last year. He immigrated to Canada from the Philippines in 2010.
He’s been able to increase the “quantity and quality” of the time he spends with his two kids in Canada, as well as his son in Manila who he connects with virtually.
“I can play more roles in my kids’ lives — like playmate or mentor — now that I’m physically with them,” Fernandez says.
His daughter, Abi, is five years old and diagnosed with autism. She goes to preschool twice a week and sees a therapist for the remaining weekdays.
“Seeing my daughter’s transformation from when I was working from the office … to being here — a lot of her teachers have noticed her progress,” says Fernandez, adding that she seems calmer and he can support her better now, when she’s experiencing mood swings.
Because there’s no need for Fernandez to commute to his office in Vancouver, he also spends the extra time catching up with his 11-year-old son in the Philippines, playing XBox online and even starting a YouTube channel together.
He adds that it can sometimes be difficult to manage his kids during work meetings, but he says “it’s mostly been happy memories.”
Martin Robbins is another stay-at-home father during the COVID-19 pandemic, living in St. Catharines, Ont.
One frustration he and his partner have been experiencing is trying to control the screen time their children are now accustomed to after a winter of lockdown. The push and pull of getting the kids outside and active — going for a hike or to the beach — can be a challenge.
“But we’re also more attuned to each other’s moods, attitudes and frustrations, and that’s something I don’t think we would have seen had the pandemic not forced us into lockdown,” Robbins says.
“There’s just a lot more connection between the whole family.”
He adds that he’s been able to “stop and smell the roses.”
Robbins also says he’s been able to learn more about his daughters, like his 12-year-old’s passion for learning languages (she’s currently teaching herself Norwegian and French), and his 10-year-old’s enthusiasm for art.
“I can’t believe the amount of supplies we’ve gone through,” he says.
Having celebrated two of his childrens’ birthdays during the pandemic — which were kept relatively low-key — he says he wants to take them to their dream destinations of Norway and Disneyland in the coming years. Until then, he’s planning on taking them to Medieval Times, a dinner theatre based in Toronto, when it is safe to do so.
“We’ll be making up for lost time from their birthdays,” Robbins says.
For Victoria, B.C. resident Paul Lacerte, living in a separate space from his three older daughters doesn’t mean they haven’t grown closer as a family during COVID-19 times.
His children have been turning to their Indigenous culture and traditional knowledge in order to find their grounding in the world, which has been humbling for Lacerte to see.
“(Those are) their own tools in their own tool belt that if something happens, that’s what they turn to,” he says. “Their resilience and the way that they pivot from surviving or suffering to thriving … is amazing.”
Lacerte co-founded the Moosehide Campaign with his daughter, Raven, 10 years ago. The campaign is a grassroots organization aimed at ending violence towards Indigenous women and children.
Indigenous women face a complex myriad of struggles, and they are disproportionately affected by violence in Canada — Lacerte says his daughters are exposed to that trauma in the work that they do, aside from their lived experiences as Indigenous women.
Even still, the movement is centred around healing.
“I could not possibly be more honoured and privileged to be the dad of fierce young changemakers, who are willing to put themselves on the line over and over and over again,” he says.
Have you gotten closer to your father over the course of the last year? Are you a father who’s gotten closer with his children? We’d love to hear your story in the comments. Happy Father’s Day!
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