Roots and Routes: Nigerian Dad Talks Parenting Life in Canada

The Love Central - Parenting in Canada The Love Central - Parenting in Canada
Many Nigerians have relocated in search of a better future. Photos by Fly View Productions
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In the first episode of Roots and Routes, a recently-relocated Nigerian dad shares his experience with life in Canada, his parenting style in a foreign land and navigating his new-found community as a migrant while maintaining his cultural identity.

Like many Nigerians hoping to provide a better future for their families, Jude relocated sometime in March 2023, joining his wife and two kids who had gone ahead of him.

“I have a small family of 4. We should have been 5 but Nigeria happened to me and we lost our middle child due to misdiagnosis and medical negligence.”

The economic crises in Nigeria, among many other factors, have seen thousands of Nigerians continue to flee the country in search of greener pastures abroad.

For Jude and his wife, the decision to relocate to Canada wasn’t an easy one to make. He explains that for years, they tried to salvage the Nigerian reality. However, it got to a point where they had to accept that relocating was the best move.

Even at that, Jude who trained as a lawyer in Nigeria, says he still didn’t plan to move completely so his wife went ahead with the children while he stayed behind.

However, it didn’t take long he joined them.

“The decision to leave was basically to have better options and make better choices, especially for the children. Almost every sector in Nigeria keeps bleeding and the leaders keep making what seems to be deliberate maladministration because you can’t say they are clueless. I think they know what to do but just do the opposite. I feel there’s a conspiracy by the leaders to ensure Nigeria doesn’t succeed and escape her quagmire.”

Parenting practices: Adapting to the Canadian culture

For many parents, settling into a new country is not without its challenges especially when it comes to adapting to the culture of the host country. For Jude and his wife, it was not as difficult as many have described.

Jude states that he has yet to encounter any challenges with the Canadian lifestyle. With two children under the age of 10, he says that he prefers the way the Canadian system ensures you’re involved in your child’s life.

“I would say that the Canadian culture is more family-oriented. The current Nigerian situation is that we mortgage and sublet the role of parenting to creches and housemaids. I don’t think the Nigerian system was getting it right before. But in the Canadian culture, the system in the West is way different. If you ignore your child’s parenting, child services will take it from you. So you have to be very involved.

Homeschooling his children while in Nigeria using materials he got online from Canada, Jude explains that nothing really changed save for the fact that he had to enrol them in elementary school once they relocated.

“And wow, the education here is interesting, it’s practical and intentional. The children learn more.”

Parenting values: Nigerian versus Canadian

Jude describes his mother as a strong woman who was fierce in loving and not afraid to teach a lesson both physically and morally.

“My dad died early and she had to raise 8 kids on her own. She didn’t have gender roles. Everyone was equal.”

For Jude, these are some of the values – and more – he intends to instil in his children.

Contrary to what many Nigerians think about the West, Jude explains that spanking as a form of discipline is also practised in Canada.

The Love Central - Parenting in Canada as a Nigerian
Jude talks about life as a parent in Canada<br>Photo by August de RichelieuPexels

However, he says that the beautiful part about the difference in culture is that in Canada, people actually want their children to respect them out of love and understanding, unlike in Nigeria where children respect more from fear of consequences.

“Even when we were in Nigeria, my 4-year-old son would ask you why if you tell him not to do a particular thing. If he is convinced, he would back down and do as he is told but if not, he’ll follow it up with another ‘why’. The typical Nigerian parent is likely to shout back in response.”

Jude describes his children’s inquisitive nature as fun for him as it is a reflection of the trust they have in him. He says parents ought to be able to explain things to their children when they ask rather than give the famous ‘because I said so’ line.

Maintaining a sense of cultural identity for his family

According to Jude, there is no Nigerian cultural heritage. He describes Nigeria as a fractured country because ‘everyone is trying to abandon the so-called Nigerian culture.’ 

“Over here, we are making our culture as we go, every individual for himself.”

However, when it comes to Nigerian cuisine and clothing, Jude says nothing has changed about that. He says that there are African stores where one can get Nigerian food.

“I also ship in foodstuff from Nigeria. Generally, getting Nigerian food is not hard over here. I still eat Nigerian food, my son still loves pounded yam and fisherman soup which we make. So, there’s really nothing different, it’s just better – better education system, better medical system, better air.“

Jude explains that he has a lot of family members around. So his niece and nephew always come around. 

“We have a lot of Nigerians around so there is really nothing missing.”

No communal living in Canada? Jude does not agree

Jude says that the narrative that when you relocate, you’d be isolated and on your own, is untrue.

“Since I came in March, the only things I bought as groceries were things I simply desired, and not necessarily a need. We have food banks where we get virtually everything which are actually run by Nigerians, although more white people are spotted there. Moving to a 3-bedroom apartment, I did not spend one kobo furnishing it. It is community furnishing. My massive rug was given to me by the Canadians in the next compound who offered to give me a machine to help wash it.”

Although he admits that the Nigerian community in Canada isn’t as close-knit as other migrant communities, he states that he sees more of the communal living practised in Canada, contrary to the popular opinion of many Nigerians.

“Parents of your child’s classmate want to know who their kid’s friend is, your neighbours are also watching you. You can’t leave your kids and go out. “You could just be in front of your house smoking and the neighbour would call child protective services and tell them you’re doing drugs in front of your kids. ‘He’s not fit to be a parent.’

“Your child could have a mark on their body and the teacher would look at the child and be like, ‘Were you abused?’ and they’d call child services. It even speaks to the whole community issue. It shows you everybody is involved. They are poking their nose into your affairs. They want to know that the child has a good life, he’s not been threatened or abused.”

Lessons on cultural adaptation and maintaining a sense of identity as a migrant family

Jude maintains that Nigeria does not have a culture to adapt. According to him, the Nigerian system does not have a Nigerian system, it is a copy-and-paste system.

“The Indians have it, the Chinese have it, but Nigeria does not have it. Our system in Nigeria has been trying to teach us with Western education system. We don’t have a Nigerian system that teaches culture.”

When it comes to the future of his family in terms of balancing his Nigerian heritage and Canadian culture in the upbringing of his children, Jude has no worries.

“My children know who they are, they know who their parents are and I hope that they will embrace the Canadian culture and properly integrate into it and be Canadians. Yes, their parents are Nigerians but they don’t have to be Nigerians.”

Jude believes he is giving them the power of choice to embrace all of the Canadian culture which is freedom of thought and freedom of possibility. And if they want to learn Nigerian culture, that’s fine by him too. 

“That is the gift I am giving to my children. That you can be anything. You don’t have to be Hausa or Yoruba. You don’t have to know somebody to be somebody. Here, you can be anything.”

Roots and Routes is a new series that delves into the heartfelt journeys of African parents raising their children in lands far from their own. In this exploration of cultural fusion and family dynamics, we embark on a voyage alongside these parents as they navigate the intricacies of preserving their African heritage while nurturing their children’s identities in new, diverse landscapes.

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9 months ago

Love this piece. Glad that a niger can think so objec about family life abroad. Very insightful.

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