Neomi Gonzales with daughter Pepper and husband Cris

(First in a series)

Lifestyle asked parents to talk about their lockdown experience with their kids. What have they been doing? Have they imposed a schedule? What have been the challenges?

Neomi Gonzales, mom of Pepper, 10

How has your lockdown experience been with your kid?

The lockdown is not much of a big adjustment for us except that we miss being with friends and family. We have been homeschooling for four years now, and being together 24/7 is a normal thing to us.

Has being in quarantine together brought you closer?Even closer. We get to do things that we haven’t done together before lockdown, like doing yoga and prayer time in the morning, watching documentaries while eating breakfast, and learning new skills like painting, crafting, cooking and playing musical instruments.

Although the lockdown is a perfect opportunity for us to impose routine on our homeschool schedule, we decided to keep it light and loose. We spend a few hours on academics, and more hours for life skills and values education. We recognize that we have different ways to cope with what’s happening around us; that’s why we included me time in our daily schedule, where we can do anything we’d like to do separately. No days are the same. There are days that are very productive, and there are days when we just want to snuggle in bed and watch Netflix the whole day.

What has been the biggest challenge of being in lockdown?

The biggest challenge would be how to stay afloat every day. Worries about your family’s health, resources and safety can overcome you. They are a big source of stress, and can sometimes affect your relationships at home. Your kids can see how you react to these challenges and they can absorb it.

But what I learned most in four months of lockdown is that we can draw strength from each other. Sometimes, it’s just so hard to get up from your bed, but having Pepper around gives us a reason to fight every day. To still have hope that things will get better and to trust God that He is in control.

Jon-jon Rufino with kids Lilith and Lucian

Jon-jon Rufino, dad of twins Lucian and Lilith, 8

How has your lockdown experience been with your kids?

We’re very fortunate. No one in the immediate family has gotten sick yet, though I have an uncle, and some parents of friends who have passed away. At first, I was very excited about distance learning, and it was very rewarding to immerse myself in what my kids were up to.

However, this was only practical while all the offices were fully closed in March and April. Also, while the teaching of concepts to my kids is fun, getting them to do repetitive homework was not. Some of the videos their school sends us to watch were very entertaining, but others were extremely boring, and the reaction papers they expected the kids to write was like pulling teeth.

How do you manage them?

I’ve always tried to reason with my kids and give them choices. If they want screen time, they have to earn it with exercise or reading a book I approve of. Yesterday, Lucian finished a children’s atlas in one sitting. I’d have him read a page from it, and then I’d ask him a few questions from that page to make sure he understood what he read. Lilith has gotten into Simply Piano, and is developing a brand new skill that I don’t have.

How do you keep them from getting bored?

Up until their new strict school schedule started last week, the kids knew I had a weakness they could exploit. If I gave them a learning task and they wanted to procrastinate, they could always ask me if we could play tennis or go for a run instead. I converted our lanai into a tiny tennis court, with enough space for me to volley, and they could hit children’s tennis balls about 15 feet away from a mini net. I have always felt that exercise is paramount to physical and mental health. So while their schedule was very flexible, they would be exercising several times a day.

Now that they have a school schedule with several Zoom calls that keep them busy from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., I’ll just see them when I get back from the office and hopefully we can get some exercise in. They’re still kids so they are very happy with an hour or two alone with their toys. Also, we have dogs. Also, we have literally been climbing the roof. The kids even requested a few picnics on top of our roof.

Has being in quarantine together brought you closer?

Before all this, my goal was to eat at least one meal a day with them. Now I usually have two meals with them. Absolutely, it has brought the kids and I closer.

What have been your favorite things to do with them in lockdown?

Indoor tennis is number one for me. And reading with them. And at 8:30 p.m., I call lights out, but they don’t actually fall asleep until 10:30 or so. We call that the evening talk show, where they ask about anything and everything. We have rehashed their birth story, as well as explored their and my favorite dinosaurs and dolls and Lego characters and Transformers. I’m not allowed not to have an opinion. Oh, and cooking. I love cooking and it’s great that they participate in that more than ever.

Have you imposed a schedule or structure to their days?

School has taken care of that: 7:30 wake up and breakfast, 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. school, 2:30-6:30 p.m. free time. Will try to get in some exercise there and they can have screen time they have earned. From 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. more screen time or games; 8:30 p.m. bedtime a.k.a. the evening talk show.

What has been the biggest challenge of being in lockdown with your kids?

It can be hard to carve out adult time. Or alone time.

What’s the best part of being in lockdown with them?

The quality and the quantity of time. The heightened attention to what we eat. The increased attention on our health and getting a good night’s sleep to keep our immune systems up. Happier dogs. INQ