Just like the saying that goes, “It takes a village to raise a child”. In the household of six-year-old Li Junyi, everyone in the house was invited to the Parents Appreciation Day in the previous years, including his parents, paternal grandparents, his maternal grandmother who would travel all the way from Malaysia for the event, and his foreign domestic helper, Ah Tey.
With the improvement in Singapore’s COVID situation this year, Li Junyi and his family actively participated in the Parents Appreciation Day organised by Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool (Yishun) by engaging in activities like tea ceremony and a foot bath at home. What made this year’s Parent Appreciation Day different was that Li Junyi had also invited his teacher Ms Huang Chia Lin, who has been teaching him since Playgroup, to his home to join them for the event.
During the Parent Appreciation Day ceremony, Li Junyi, with the help of his father, was busy shuttling back and forth to prepare new batches of warm water to bathe the feet of his family members. His father, Samuel Li, revealed that Li Junyi was so excited about the event that he was sleepless the night before and woke up at six in the morning in anticipation.
With the lifting of COVID restrictions in Singapore, Li Junyi’s grandparents were able to participate in their grandson’s Parent Appreciation Day once again after a one-year hiatus. This year, both Li Junyi and his father bathed the feet of Li Junyi’s grandparents together, making this year’s activity even more meaningful.
Initially, everyone in the family had to put in a lot of effort to convince Li Junyi’s grandfather, Lee Teck Geow, to participate in the activity as he was more reserved and refused to participate. However, after witnessing his son and grandson bathing his feet and serving him tea, Lee Teck Geow could be seen smiling broadly.
Similarly, Li Junyi’s grandmother, Koh Guek Eng, could be seen smiling and beaming with joy. She explained, “Grandpa will most likely be laughing in his sleep tonight. He is feeling delighted to have his son and grandson bathing his feet for him after all these years!”
At this moment, the three generations of family members put aside their usual reservations and locked in a warm embrace. Li Junyi’s mother, Jeslyn Woon, managed to capture this endearing moment. Samuel Li explained touchingly that he rarely had any physical contact with his parents.
“Initially, I thought it would be very awkward. However, it just happened naturally. I feel very warm at heart,” said Samuel Li.
Li Junyi had actually missed the rehearsal for the tea ceremony and foot bathing held at his Preschool two days ago as he was feeling unwell. Despite being absent from this year’s rehearsal, the actions had long been etched in his mind from years of practice. Hence, he performed them naturally with ease and even played the video of “The Sutra on the Profound Kindness of Parents and the Difficulties in Repaying them” on television while performing sign language for his grandmother.
His grandmother gestured and mentioned proudly, “He practises like that daily. Every time we came for a visit, he would perform sign language enthusiastically.”
What made the Parents Appreciation Day this year even more special was the invitation of Huang Chia Lin by Li Junyi’s parents to their home to join them for the event. Huang Chia Lin has been teaching Li Junyi from Playgroup to K2, hence, his parents wanted their son to serve her tea and bathe her feet.
“Ms Huang Chia Lin, thank you for your hard work!”
Li Junyi chirped while serving gratitude tea to his teacher with both hands. After which, he proceeded to bathe and massage her feet. Li Junyi was Huang Chia Lin’s first batch of students when she first arrived in Singapore five years ago. Before her students graduated this year, she managed to experience a foot bath by her student. She exclaimed emotionally, “The child has grown up so much.”
This year’s foot bathing activity evoked Huang Chia Lin’s homesickness as she has been unable to return to Taiwan for three years due to the pandemic. Huang Chia Lin said, “It makes me want to bathe the feet of my parents too. I have never done it for my parents.”
Last but not least, Li Junyi served tea and bathed the feet of his family’s domestic helper, Ah Tey. This had been the second time that he had done so.
Abegael Leysa from the Philippines, also affectionately known as “Ah Tey”, had been the main caregiver and helping out with household chores when both of Li Junyi’s parents were out to work. She had a very close relationship with the Li family. Before the start of the ceremony, Li Junyi’s parents and grandparents reminded him and said, “Ah Tey has been taking care of you since you were one-year-old, so, you should thank Ah Tey properly okay?”
Ah Tey commented lovingly, “In the Philippines, there is no such ceremony. It is a very touching ceremony, and I am very proud of him.”
On this day, the Li Family had also prepared afternoon tea and snacks for everyone. Junyi’s mother, who hails from Malaysia, was very hospitable and explained that they like to enrich their children’s life experiences as much as possible. The family had been inviting teachers to their home occasionally after the COVID situation improved. They would also organise birthday celebration for their domestic helper. Jeslyn Woon said, “Most of us come from a foreign land, hence we should try to gather and relax whenever we can.”
A simple bonding session like this has reflected the emphasis placed on children’s character building in both home and school setting. By upholding and inculcating good mannerism in young children, it can also strengthen the bond between students and their teachers.