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Father’s Day is approaching again. Where has the time gone?

"My children are growing up, and I need to be there for them. But my parents are getting older as well, and I can't always go back to accompany them. I'm caught in the middle, and it's not easy. I was once a carefree young man. Now, with a family and a career, I remember the responsibilities my father undertook for the whole family back then." In this season that celebrates filial piety, let's listen to the voices of middle-aged parents.

(Photo by Tew Yu Rui)

Chan Meng Teck was deeply touched when he saw his daughter, Chan Wan Rong, serve him tea. He remarked, "The tea ceremony is so heartwarming. It teaches children to respect and be filial to their elders, and that warms my heart."

In conjunction with Mother’s Day that falls in May and Father’s Day in June, Tzu-Chi Foundation (Singapore) organised a Parent-Child Bonding Class. On the morning of 26 May 2024, nearly 300 children and parents gathered at Jing Si Hall to celebrate Parents’ Day. 

The drama deeply touched many parents, bringing tears to their eyes due to its resonance. Soo Khee Cheng, Chan Meng Teck’s wife, was among the mothers moved to tears.

She shared, "The short play 'Where Has the Time Gone?' is incredibly touching. It made me reflect emotionally, wondering where all the time has gone and why it seemed to disappear so suddenly."

This is the first time that Chan Wan Rong (middle) served tea to her father Chan Meng Teck (right) and mother Soo Khee Cheng (left). (Photo by Yang Wen Ting) 

Where Has the Time Gone?

She came to Singapore alone to work and rarely returned to her hometown in Malaysia after starting a family. Soo Khee Cheng described her role aptly: "My children are growing up and I have to raise and take care of them. Although my parents are getting older, I can’t go back that often to accompany them. I’m caught in the middle and it’s not easy. "  

Only when you raise a child do you truly understand your parents' feelings. Soo Khee Cheng reflected, saying, "When I worry about my children, I often think about how my parents brought us up at that time. There was no internet, my parents must have been even more worried if their children had a fever because they had no idea on what to do.”

The play "Where Has the Time Gone?" depicts the challenges faced by middle-aged parents who find themselves torn between caring for their ageing parents and raising their growing children. (Photo by Tew Yu Rui)

Close to 300 parents and primary school students from 82 families gathered in Jing Si Hall, twice the usual number of attendees present for the event in previous years. (Photo by Yang Wen Ting)

Chan Wan Rong, the nine-year-old daughter of Soo Khee Cheng and Chan Meng Teck, is currently in Primary Two and also attends the Parent-Child Bonding Class. While Soo Khee Cheng usually brings her five-year-old son to the class, on this special day, Chan Meng Teck joined them as well.

Chan Meng Teck was deeply touched when he saw his daughter, Chan Wan Rong, serve him tea. He remarked, "The tea ceremony is so heartwarming. It teaches children to respect and be filial to their elders, and that warms my heart."

During the tea ceremony, many parents took out their mobile phones to capture the moment when their children approached them with tea. (Photo by Yang Wen Ting)

Instead of striving for higher grades, it’s more important to focus on character building

Chan Meng Teck is grateful to his wife for bringing the children here every month. He said, "Singapore does pay more attention to academic performance, but we think that our children's spiritual growth is more important."

Both parents said in unison that character building is very important and recognised Tzu Chi’s mission to educate children to do one good deed every day. Soo Khee Cheng is happy to share that her daughter, Chan Wan Rong, has two piggy banks at home: one to save money for herself and the other to donate to others.

Soo Khee Cheng said, "I often remind my daughter and son to be grateful for growing up in a blessed country like Singapore. I give her S$2.50 every day. Sometimes, she has eight cents left, and she would divide them equally and drop them into two piggy banks."

In addition, the two children often tell their parents when they return home that they should care for the earth and animals and not eat so much meat. These changes made Chan Meng Teck and Soo Khee Cheng feel warm at heart.  

Tzu Shao performing the song "Kneeling Lamb" in sign language to express filial piety. (Photo by Tew Yu Rui)

Couple coordinated their efforts to bring their four children to participate in two different Tzu Chi events

On this day, most children came to class accompanied by both parents, doubling the usual number of attendees. The students, ranging from Primary One to Primary Six, were divided into two groups to play station games.

Unlike the Chan family, Tee Sheue Lam attended the Parent-Child Bonding Class alone with her two children. After asking, it was discovered that Tee Sheue Lam has four children. The two eldest are in the Tzu Chi Teenagers’ Class and were accompanied by her husband, while the other two, who are primary school students, participated in the Parent-Child Bonding Class and accompanied by Tee Sheue Lam.

Seven-year-old Teoh Yu Shen (left) and nine-year-old Teoh Yu En (center) served tea and fed their mother, making Tee Sheue Lam (right) smile from ear to ear. (Photo by Tew Yu Rui)  

"I used to resort to harsh methods, even using canes until the canes were bent," Tee Sheue Lam revealed that she and her husband would cane the children when they felt that the children were rebellious. However, she found this method counterproductive. With her husband's sister being a Tzu Chi volunteer in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, she suggested they involve their children in Tzu Chi activities.

Nowadays, Tee Sheue Lam’s two eldest children have advanced to the Tzu Chi Teenagers’ Class, while her two younger children attend the Parent-Child Bonding Class every month. Reflecting on the Parent-Child Bonding Class, she said, "The children have shown noticeable changes since coming here. They are no longer that bad tempered too."

A child giving his mother a massage. (Photo by Yang Wenting)

Tee Sheue Lam was also moved to tears by the song "Where Has the Time Gone". "While I am busy taking care of the kids, I realise that our parents are also getting old. For the sake of our children's future, my husband and I came to work in Singapore, keeping our children here for their education, and we rarely return to Malaysia." Tee Sheue Lam sighed and said further, "We're like sandwich cookies. After having children, we are busy taking care of them, sending them for tuition and so on, so I can't see my parents often."

Tee Sheue Lam said sincerely, "Moral education is very important. We hope that when the children grow up, they know how to be grateful and give back to society.”

Also moved to tears by the song "Where Has the Time Gone", Tee Sheue Lam shared that moral education is very important. She hopes that her children will grow up to give back to society and cultivate a sense of gratitude. (Photo by Tew Yu Rui)