Jannelle So thought she knew her four-year-old daughter as well as possible. She was involved with her school work and activities, and had spent plenty of time with her throughout each day.
After California issued a “shelter-in-place” order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Los Angeles-based television host realized her daughter Lilly could still find ways to surprise her.
“I discovered more things about her,” said So, who also has a one-year-old son, Leo. Among the things she discovered was that her daughter could understand big words, like coronavirus and quarantine, and that she had a sharp memory as well.
“She would repeat to me a conversation we had two or more days prior and will repeat those or bring those up in other conversations, almost verbatim. That she is very curious – asking questions and paying attention to the answer and asks for clarification when she doesn’t understand,” said So.
So began recording her daughter’s adventures on her iPhone, posting an average of one video per week to her Instagram account (@sojannelle). Her husband, Lester Perkins, is a director, and helped out with the producing and editing. They only produce videos when Lilly wants to, and allow her to pick the topic. She’s also recorded a Salute to Frontliners and Counting to 10 in Five Languages.
Through the first ten videos, the topics have included how Lilly would handle the coronavirus pandemic if she was president (“People want the truth, so I will tell the truth, even when I’ve been naughty”) and explaining what social distancing means to kids like her (“We can’t even have sleepovers”).
“She loves the camera and she loves to talk. But she is very rarely interested in watching herself in the finished edit. To her, after filming, the fun is done!” said So.
What So has found is that viewers have considered the clips to be a bright spot during otherwise difficult times.
“We were very encouraged by the response of people who liked and commented on our posts. They said she was helping take away their stress and anxiety during these times,” said So.
The response has been so great that So decided to create an Instagram account for Lilly (@lillyjadeperkins) and a YouTube channel – LifewithLilly.
The stay-at-home orders have not stopped So from work on her own show, “SO Jannelle,” the weekly magazine/lifestyle she launched in July of 2017, and which airs Sundays at 6:55 p.m. EST (3:55 PT) on The Filipino Channel. Replays can be seen on the Lifestyle Network, and the show also airs in syndication on KSCITV-LA18.
As for her parental duties, now that school is out of session, So has adapted a soft schedule to maintain some structure and nurture learning. After breakfast, she’ll read at least five books to each of her children, before allowing them some free time to roam around and play educational games.
So has also set up a classroom setting where she teaches Lilly her “lessons,” which consist mainly of writing letters, counting and some reading. “She actually calls me ‘teacher’ and we pretend there are classmates. So it’s like pretend play which encourages creativity and imagination,” said So.
Winding down includes prayer, where So and Lilly put everything into perspective to end the day.
“I ask her to enumerate three things she’s thankful for from the day, three things she is sorry about and three things she needs God to help her with the next day.”
As for us, we’re grateful for perspectives like Lilly’s, videos like Lilly’s and like the So-Perkins family, time to spend with each other, for discovery and creativity.