How My Immigrant Parents Kept Me Busy on a Budget

As is the common story of many immigrant families, my parents also experienced a downturn in their financial prosperity when we immigrated to Canada from Pakistan.

I was 6 years old, and used to staying busy with extracurriculars in the evenings and weekends back home. Summer meant vacations abroad and visiting relatives in other cities. This was simply not the case when we moved to Canada. We had no relatives here; after-school classes or summer camp programs became unaffordable. Family summer vacations were no longer as easy or lengthy given my father's new work schedule.

I was perfectly content with watching cartoons and family sitcoms after school and on weekends, but my parents wanted my education to continue outside school hours. This was as accurate then as it is now: Keeping kids engaged and entertained away from screens can get costly! Expenses associated with museums, amusement parks, festivals, special events, sports leagues, activities, camps or classes can quickly add up and is just not feasible for many families.

But I never noticed the financial strain we were under because my parents always kept me active.

Innovative Ways to Stay Busy

When my parents couldn't afford to send me to camp or after-school programs, they came up with innovative ways to exercise my mind and occupy my time productively, formulating the better part of my childhood.

We'd play soccer in the park nearby and turn the scores into a fun math game. Each time we scored, the points were raised to a higher value and I would add up the numbers excitedly.
My father started a driving game that involved creating words based on characters on license plates, I still find myself doing this at stop lights.
We'd go for walks and learn about wildlife or pack a picnic and enjoy it at a park.

My Favourite Memories

My mother and I did arts and crafts together, and it always resulted in bright and creative school projects that stood out in class and got me excellent grades. My grade 2 teacher even admitted to my mom that she saw her creative influence in my work. To this day, I still seek my mother's help when doing DIY projects around my home.

Public transit trips to Toronto libraries with mom are also one of my favourite memories. She took me all over the city to Toronto's oldest libraries and I remember fondly how exciting it was to enter each library and walk through it, admiring the wood book shelves, finding the kids' section and immersing myself in the pages of so many wonderful books I thought were there just for me.

My elementary school teachers told my parents I was an advanced reader. I was perplexed at their amazement because reading was always something I enjoyed and did for fun.

I Never Realized the Financial Hardships

My parents filled my time with such fantastic activities, I didn't even realize the financial restraint they practiced until I was much older. Forever grateful for their sacrifices, love and commitment to their children, I only hope I can be a parent of such substance someday.

Written by Zehra Abbas. This article originally appeared on Tangerine’s site: Forward Thinking.

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