"'Foot-bathing' is to wash your daddy's and mummy's feet. Do you want to help wash their feet?" After Teacher Xie Qiongmei, the teacher of the six-year-old class (K2), finished her question, some children strived to express their doubts, "Eww...... (feet) so smelly, why do we want to wash daddy's and mummy's feet?"
"When you were younger, your daddy and mummy helped change your diaper after you pooped. Did they mind that you were smelly?"
When the children were kicking up, Teacher Xie remained calm and asked them instead, "Do you think your poop or your daddy's and mummy's feet are smellier?"
The class hesitated for a while and answered unanimously, "Poop is smellier."
Teacher Xie continued to ask, "It was tiring for daddy and mummy to change your diaper. Do you want to help your daddy and mummy wash their feet? If you want, raise your hands!" All the children raised their hands this time, and the teacher was satisfied.
Preschool children seemed not fully understand the deeper meaning of foot-bathing. Hence, the teacher used age-appropriate words to patiently educate and guide the children.
On 20 May 2022, Tzu Chi Great Love Preschool (Yishun) ushered in its Parents Appreciation Day. Three-to-six-year-old children baked chocolate biscuits and made paper flowers and cards by themselves. More specifically, they learned to serve tea and bathe their parents' feet at home under teachers' guidance.
Practise Being a Filial Kid with Confidence
"Teacher, chocolate is my mummy's favourite!" Children were full of anticipation and excitement when being told that they were going to bake eggless chocolate cookies.
Flour, brown sugar, butter, baking soda, and chocolate chips - the teacher introduced the ingredients needed and demonstrated the steps to make chocolate cookies. During that moment, even the noisiest children watched and listened attentively.
Children attempted boldly and learned to stir, weigh and bake with the help of their teacher. Everyone worked together and enjoyed the baking process.
Some classes had made cookies one day earlier as they had to make coloured paper flowers and paste them on the cards for their parents. They had a great time creating the craft.
The most challenging part for the teacher was the tea serving and foot-bathing ceremony. Despite an improvement in the pandemic situation in Singapore, the preschool still decided to let children serve tea and conduct foot-bathing at home. It wasn’t easy to let children practise and follow the instructions to complete the etiquette smoothly by themselves.
Huang Chia Lin, the teacher of the six-year-old class, accompanied the children to practice by turns. Some children played the role of parents drinking tea, while some children practised holding an empty cup with both hands, serving tea respectfully on their knees, and following the teacher to say the words of blessing sentence by sentence.
"Daddy and mummy, please drink the first sip of tea, and I wish you good health. Daddy and mummy, please drink the second sip of tea, and I wish you happiness every day. Daddy and mummy, please drink the third sip of tea, and I wish you all your wishes come true."
"Children, remember to only fill the cup with a little tea at home. Otherwise, it might spill out!" The teacher reminded her students as she was worried that children of this age might not have their hand-eye coordination skills fully developed and might spill the tea if they lost balance.
This group of six-year-old children grew up under the pandemic. It was their second time practising foot-bathing. A little girl said tenderly, "My sister and I did it at home last year. I bathed mummy's feet while my sister bathed daddy's feet."
Worried that the children could not memorise the entire process, the teacher disassembled the foot-bathing task into a few steps and guided every group of students with patience.
The thought of gratitude and filial piety behind the tea serving and foot-bathing was more important than completing the ceremony perfectly. The preschool arranged a series of activities, including sign language and songs, videos and Jing Si Aphorisms teaching, to help the children understand the meaning. However, it was still not easy for the children at this age to understand.
A Jing Si Aphorism reads, "Children who are grateful to their parents are the most blessed." Teacher Huang Chia Lin asked the children, "Why do we need to be grateful to our parents? Do you still remember what your parents did for you?"
"My mummy cooks for me."
"My mummy helped me change diapers when I was young."
Children answered the question one after another. Teacher Huang continued, "If you want to be grateful and repay your parents, what can you do to be good to your parents?"
Children vied to answer, "Don't make them angry, make cards for them, say thank you to them."
It was not a one-way preaching. Teachers let the children experience "filial piety" from their hearts and understand that they can convey their gratitude through small actions in daily life.
Putting Away Naughtiness and Performing Filial Piety by Serving Tea and Bathing Parents’ Feet
The children put what they had learnt into practice after the lesson. On 22 May afternoon, Aden Wan Jun Kai, a lively and active kid, was full of anticipation and excitement. His family also helped him prepare hot tea and warm water for foot-bathing early in the morning.
Aden Wan Jun Kai arranged activities for his parents like a little master. He first pulled his parents to sit down and watched the class performance video. Then, when serving tea and bathing his parents' feet, Aden kept giving instructions to his parents and reminding them when to start drinking tea and how to lay their feet flat. Although not all the steps were done correctly, his actions were presentable.
However, when it was time to give the greeting card, the outgoing and talkative Aden suddenly became very shy. He took out the card and paper flowers from his schoolbag, stuffed them into his parents' hands, shouted goodbye and ran away - his parents could not help laughing at that moment.
Afterwards, when about to read the message on the greeting card to his parents, Aden suddenly asked for his mother's mobile phone and hid in the room. It turned out that the little boy was embarrassed to speak in front of his parents and chose to record it with the phone software. He played the recording loudly, "On the way to grow up, thank you daddy and mummy for your love and support. Aden loves you."
Subsequently, the three hugged each other tightly for a long time and enjoyed their family affection. Aden’s mother, Teo Yuen Ping, was moved and gratified. She said, "My child has grown up. He is different from year to year."
Teo Yuen Ping added, "Yesterday, Aden asked whether he can still help us bathe our feet after going to primary school next year. I said maybe not, but he said he still wants to do it for us at home in the future."
The child earnestly performed the ceremony of serving tea and foot-bathing, not just to complete a "weekend homework" but to do it by heart and hope to continue it in the following years. The end of the activity was just the beginning of filial piety, as the ceremony was just an inspiration or a seed to teach the children to express love in daily life.