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FIRST PERSON | Teaching, learning, living: A walkthrough for young mothers amid CoViD

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I officially became a mother on December of 2016.

It was the best moment of my life. It still is.

From Day 1, I had been a hands-on mom with a husband who was always willing to help. As a first-time mother, I had to learn on the fly what can work for my daughter.

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There was a lot of trial and error on our part. Frustrations and doubts would creep in but a mother’s instincts would always prevail. I always knew what was best for my child.

The first three years of being a mother has brought me great joy. I have learned about different parenting philosophies and applied them to my daughter and watched in amazement of her development.

I love seeing my child grow before my very own eyes. I had the best seat in the house to witness my daughter’s growth. From crawling to running, from babbling to talking, from doodling to drawing, I was the first to see all of them.

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Then COVID-19 invaded our country.

My daughter had just turned three. I was already aware of the Coronavirus but it never occured to me how much it will affect us. The idea that it will reach Philippines, let alone Bacolod, did not enter my mind.

On March 30th, lockdown was imposed on Bacolod City.

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It dawned on me that this has become a serious threat, not just to Bacoleños, but most especially to my daughter.

When my husband and I learned that somebody residing close to our village was a confirmed positive, we decided to temporarily live at my sister’s. All I can think of was the safety of our only child.

While packing for our temporary transfer, I can’t help but think of the lost opportunities for my three-year old to explore, socialize and enjoy nature.

Before all these happened we always went to parks, the zoo, and the beach. When we moved to our current residence in the East side of our city, I would bring her to the park in front of the New Government Center where she will wait for her dad to arrive from work so they can play together.

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She would ride her scooter, feed the fish, ran after the birds and fly her kite. Suddenly all these has to stop. And I did not know how to explain this to her. My heart sank when I talked to her how she can’t do all those things for a while because of the Coronavirus.

But then I decided that no matter what, it won’t change how I’ll raise my child. I thought it would be best for our daughter to understand why she can’t play outdoors like before. But at the same time we shielded her from the cruel reality.

When I was pregnant I researched about positive parenting and early childhood guides like Waldorf, Montessori and RIE. These philosophies have helped me mold my daughter into an independent child who enjoys learning practical life skills as well as love for nature and books. I was more determined to apply those during the lockdown.

While at my sister’s house, her socialization was hardly affected because of the presence of her cousins. A few things had to change, of course. Weekend visits to grand parents and other cousins became video calls. Play dates, too.

Outdoor play is limited to my sister’s garage. Nevertheless, playing with her two cousins made up for them.

Solo play means her being alone in one any spot in the house she picks and playing with open-ended toys we brought with us. Magnetic tiles, wooden blocks, Play Doughs, popsicle sticks along with small dinosaur figures and Little Ponies lent by her cousins were scattered on the floor. After she was through, she puts them away just like she always does.

I always allow her to have these alone times as a way for her to have a break from her cousins (or her cousins’ break from her) as well as a time for her to play on her terms. This little break is also a way for her to hone her creativity as she creates stories while playing. Drawing or painting is her next go-to solo activity. I always have washable paints, crayons, markers, colored pencils and dustless chalks ready should she decide to get artistic.

After the first lockdown, we went back to our residence. My daughter was so happy to back to the place she calls her home.

In fact, the moment we entered our home she immediately went to her play area and did not even bother to “help” us unpack which actually made unpacking easier.

Now, my daughter is interested in reading and writing. Which is good because it means it won’t be difficult for me to prepare her for preschool. I requested my husband to print ten weeks worth of school materials so my daughter and I can have different learning activities to do at home. She breezed through them the first four weeks.

After that, she got tired of it. But it was okay with me. It just proved what I knew all along. Structured learning won’t always work for kids her age.

And so, we are back to learning through play. We still go back to those activities but only when she wants to.

There might be restrictions but I make sure I am able to address her simple requests. When situations allow, we would go to the football field near our house where she can chase grasshoppers and dragonflies.

Soon she will be able to see an Oleander hawk moth emerge from its cocoon, thanks to my husband’s idea of rescuing a caterpillar from being a potential bird food, and nurtured it in a microwavable plastic box.

Being a mom has brought me enormous joys. But I also had a lot of struggles. And it only doubled in these times. I have kept my temper from flaring as my daughter models herself after me, being her constant companion. With so many problems this pandemic has caused us, I would get so short fused.

Maybe that’s why my daughter, with so many limitations to keep her safe, gets cranky at times.

She would throw fits, refuse to listen, do all things any child subjected to restrictions would do. And we allow her to express her feelings as we have always done and more so right now. We don’t want to suppress what she feels. Not when she is under a lot of restrictions as it is.

My goal during this pandemic is to not stop creating happy memories for my daughter. I will not let fear stop her from living. When she grows up and have children of her own, she will tell our grand children not how Covid-19 brought fear to our family, but how we continued to live.

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Karen Infante-Papasin
Karen Infante-Papasin
Karen Quebrar-Papasin is a young mother raising a toddler amid a lockdown. A former airline employee, she now finds joy discovering the challenges of motherhood.
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