Date: 2017-03-27 12:10:16
Category: all categories
Metatags: Christian, Immigrant, Indian, Indian Christian, Mothering, Personal Narratives, Resilience, South Asian, Toronto, Women
Melrose Alvares considers herself truly blessed. She arrived in Toronto less than two years ago with husband Lyndon and three year old son Tyler. Initially, they were warmly welcomed, staying with Lyndon's brother Duane and his family. Within a couple of months of arriving here Lyndon had a job, they bought a home and the car came in a year later. They settled into the Canadian way of life in east Scarborough, Highland Creek. Having a big group of well-established family and friends, they were soon supplied with the furniture and equipment typically needed to set up a new home.
“We got this lovely Italian dining set from Denise's friend, whose Mum was moving into a retirement home. And my sister-in-law, Auriel guided me about everything, from how to navigate traffic to what groceries to buy and meals to cook.” Melrose eyes shine with gratitude as we sit at her wooden dining table one sunny afternoon.
But Melrose is quick to acknowledge that all is not sunshine for many South Asian mothers she meets at the Early Years Centre. “One mother shared that she did not even have a fork or a spoon to start her life here. Things are so difficult for her. Her husband has not been able to get a job and is still volunteering after many months. She has told me she would rather go back to India where there is much more social support.”
Despite having a strong personal support system of family and friends, Melrose is grateful that she got connected to programs run by the Early Years Centres, thanks to Shaheena whom she met at a local grocery store. “I am learning so much,” she says. “There is so much I didn’t know when I first came here and that made me feel so helpless – what to cook for Tyler, how to dress him according to the different seasons, where to take him for activities. Summer was so hot I did not expect autumn to be so cold. Tyler would scream because I had not dressed him warmly enough. Now I’ve made the habit of always checking the weather before leaving the house.”
Though Melrose taught at Don Bosco’s, an all boys’ school in Mumbai for 16 years, she feels there is much learning to do as a mother here in Canada. The Incredible Years Program and Nobody’s Perfect were big eye-openers for her in terms of interacting with her child. “The 12-14 week program is a rigorous committed course with assignments etc. As parents we always feel my child is always here, I don’t really need to sit down and play with him/her. And in India, fathers go to work and most have nothing to do with their children. I was really impressed by the videos we watched about learning to play effectively with your child. It was no longer about buying him a bunch of toys and letting him play by himself, but actually spending time with him.”
Though Melrose cherishes her time with Tyler, she did find herself needing a break to refresh her own spirit. That’s when she got involved in Sunday School at her local church, St. Joseph’s, assisting Angela Albers who became her mentor and guide. She also makes time for what she calls her MBS (mind, body, soul) program - spending some Sunday afternoons meditating and doing yoga exercises with her sister-in-law.
Melrose had many doubts before moving to Canada until her spiritual director told her, “Moving abroad will help you grow as a person. You’ll do things you never would in India.” For Melrose this is already happening in many ways. “I play ball or badminton with my son, take him to gymnastics, swimming and baseball. Every Mother’s Day we go to play tennis with our cousins, the Dias family.” Most of all, Melrose is grateful for the quality time they can spend together as a family, a luxury that was denied them by Lyndon’s long working hours in Mumbai.