The lessons taught at the parenting camp held in Valenzuela City public schools Saturdays of September through December 2014 were as common-sensical as they could get.
The importance of open communication, family bonding time, and fair discipline have made many a talk show and glossy magazines serious money. Perhaps not in equal degrees, with some parents practicing them more vigilantly than others, these principles are followed by every mom and dad everywhere.
But for Maria Lourdes Lorenzo, 37, they attained a certain depth you would be hard pressed to find in another nanay-teacher, as what the participants of the city government-organized parenting camp have been called.
A year before the parenting camp, Lorenzo was a working mother, who, like others of her kind, always felt she was missing a lot on family life.
In 2014, she finally got the so-called “quality” time with her children she had always longed for – then some.
Lorenzo’s former customer service job at a software company in another city had meant long hours at work – and trading off precious time with her three children: Fatima, 11; Gelo, 8; and Vergel, 2. She would often come home at night to her children already fast asleep.
Then, in 2014, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, already in the advanced Stage III-B. Since then, Lorenzo has quit her job and been undergoing chemotherapy.
The Parent-Teacher Association Vice President at Serrano Elementary School where her children go, she was one of the 32 parents chosen to become one of the trainers at the city government-run Nanay-Teacher Parenting Camp.
The camp was a project under the city government’s Education 360 Investment Program, a large-scale spending on local public education system.
Considered by city officials to be a holistic approach to uplifting education, Education 360’s project mix also includes feeding programs, remedial reading classes, construction of 54 classrooms, including those in the state-of-the-art Valenzuela City School of Mathematics and Science.
The teaching stint at the camp, along with joining the choir at a local church, helped Lorenzo deal with her illness. It not only kept her mind off it; it also developed in her an appreciation of the responsibilities – and joys – of being a parent.
Discipline with dignity
As a camp facilitator, she got to teach more than 900 mothers and fathers at Serrano Elementary School the basics of effective parenting, among them “discipline with dignity”, a principle she learned from famed child psychologist Dr. Maria Lourdes “Honey” Carandang.
“Hindi mo kailangang insultuhin ang mga bata (You don’t need to resort to insulting your children when you discipline them),” said Lorenzo. “Kailangan, kung didisiplinahin mo sila, is ‘yong may dignity pa rin. Hindi mo kailangang ipamukha sa kanila na masama silang bata (Keep their dignity intact. You don’t have to rub it in how nasty they have been).
The parent must make the child understand the rules being imposed, and the reason why you are giving him or her a reprimand, Lorenzo said.
But more than being lawgivers, parents should be their children’s best friends.
“Maraming nagshare sa amin na ang ikinatatakot nila is ‘yong nababarkada na yong anak nila, na hindi na nila masyadong nakikita, kasi mas madalas na nasa labas, mas madalas na ang kasama iyong mga kaibigan (Many parents at the camp were worrying that their children are spending too much time with their friends while they, the parents, are seeing them less),” said Lorenzo.
“Kaibiganin nila ‘yong anak nila, para mas maging kumportable ‘yong mga bata sa mga magulang nila kaysa naman naghahanap sila ng ibang mapagsasabihan ng kanilang problema (I would tell parents to make friends with their kids, make them comfortable with their company; otherwise, they, the children, will turn to others outside the family to confide their problems to).”
The best thing is that bonding time with kids need not be expensive. Even something as mundane as walking down the street together can be a potent way to tighten the ties among family members, Lorenzo said.
Lorenzo admitted that at the onset, she and the other camp facilitators felt resistance from their parent-charges, who seemed unconvinced of the camp’s mission. Things would change for the better by the end of the camp.
“Maraming mga magulang ang nagsasabing mas close na sila ng mga anak nila, na nag-aaral na nang mabuti, tinututukan na ng mga anak nila ang pag-aaral nila ( Many parents would say that they had become closer with their children, that they have started to look after their children’s studies more),” said Lorenzo. “Maraming nagpapasalamat, marami raw silang natutunan, naging inspiration daw nila kami (Many were grateful, they said they learned a lot, that we, the facilitators, were their inspiration)”
But no one could have been more thankful than Lorenzo herself.
Time – the most precious thing
Since the diagnosis, Lorenzo has become irritable, angered at slight matters. It didn’t take long before the disease affected her children as well. Fatima’s teachers would tell her that the girl was often found staring blankly.
With her husband Vergel working abroad in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, seeing her children through the emotionally draining effect of the having a sick mother, on top of taking care of herself, became a struggle for Lorenzo.
She would find then a counselor in Dr. Carandang, whom she met at the seminar meant to train camp facilitators.
“Nag-confide ako, kinausap ko si Dr. Carandang tungkol sa sitwasyon ko. Iyon nga, in-advise niya sa akin na as much as possible huwag kong ipararamdam sa mga bata na may pagbabago, na may sakit nga ako, na iparamdam ko sa kanila na normal lang lahat (I confided to Dr. Carandang about my situation. She advised me to as much as possible keep my children from feeling that something has changed, that I am sick, and maintain that everything is normal),” said Lorenzo.
She heeded Dr. Carandang’s advice and would bring her children with her at check-ups, where they would hear the doctor speak of Lorenzo’s improving condition. Chaperoning her mother should also make Fatima feel that she is as much as part of her mother‘s recovery as the doctors.
Time is the most precious thing parents could ever give their sons and daughters, and Lorenzo is hoping it wouldn’t take an illness striking the family for them to realize that.
Advises Lorenzo: “Hangga't kaya ninyo, bigyan ninyo ng oras ang mga anak niyo, ‘yong pag-aaral ng mga anak ninyo dahil mas nagkakaroon sila ng tiwala sa sarili nila pag may suporta ang mga magulang nila para sa kanila.”
The city government is set to start cycle two of training for trainers at the Nanay-Teacher Parenting Camp for 2015 on April 13-24 in Tanza, Cavite.