Family Fun Adventures: Cool Things to Do Around Singapore
by Dulce Zamora
For the first time since 2012, my parents visited Singapore. They used to come every year, but the chance to return did not manifest until this year.
A lot happened in the time that they were away. The Little Red Dot grew and so did my two daughters. When the girls were small, their grandparents happily participated in family-friendly activities, such as snack time, playdates, and ballet lessons. This visit, my children (now teenagers) were mostly at school, and my husband was at work. I had Mom and Dad to myself for the first time in years. It was nice to have uninterrupted adult time while taking them around the island. I cherished it, especially since it was likely their last trip to Southeast Asia. The 16- to 17-hour flight from their home in the San Francisco Bay Area had become too taxing. I declared they’d probably live to be 100 years old. Yet, we all knew life was unpredictable, especially given our pandemic experience.
We did not see the limits before – at least I didn’t. Our daily struggles loomed larger than time. During one of my parents’ past stays, we fought about not getting enough respect from one other. Mom and Dad had a hacking cough. I lamented they weren’t very careful about preventing virus transmission to my young children (who were always sick). My parents mistook my motherly caution and fatigue as an attack on their parenting methods. They raised three kids, didn’t they? Surely, they knew what they were doing.
Incidents like these now hit more like whispers in the wind, threatening to whisk away possible moments of shared joy. We recently discussed American politics while checking out the OCBC Skywalk. We aligned with different parties but agreed on our shared love of country. Maybe the panoramic view before us helped expand our personal horizons. The brisk breezes, with their perfect blend of warmth and refreshment, also helped ease tempers that could have easily flared with hot topics. It certainly did not hurt to be surrounded by botanic eye candy at the Supertree Grove and to have greens decked in Chinese New Year reds, pinks, and golds. It was like external dopamine. I felt a rush of appreciation for our time together in such a breathtaking landscape. As for my parents, they forgot about their achy joints and started dancing along the Gardens by the Bay pathways.
Since my parents like greenery, I also took them to HortPark, a cluster of themed landscapes along the Southern Ridges which include Floral Walk, Edible Garden, Vertical Greenery, and Therapeutic Garden. The vegetation unearthed fond memories of their childhood in the Philippines. My mother recalled climbing fruit trees to satisfy her snack cravings. She described the times she fell off branches in the same manner a proud fighter would recount scars. My father, on the other hand, sounded nostalgic talking about the small vegetable garden he tended in the lot next to his family’s shack. He sold the harvest at the market or used it to supplement rice, the only consistent item in his cash-strapped family’s diet. Although those were tough times, Dad’s voice softened when he shared his connection to the earth. Nature does have a healing effect, he said, agreeing with a writeup at HortPark’s Therapeutic Garden that detailed the positive effects of plants on mental and emotional wellbeing.
In fact, plenty of research shows that greenery and gardening boost mood and lower stress levels. Plants also remove pollutants such as carbon dioxide from the air. This prompted me to think about my family’s own ecosystem. While we cannot control many things in the world, we can improve health outcomes by surrounding ourselves with life-affirming elements. So, while my parents were on a side trip to Thailand, I went back to the nursery at HortPark to check out the plants for sale. I also sat in the park’s restaurant, Canopy, where I wrote the beginning of this column. I typed the final words at Knots Café and Living, another botanic-inspired space in Pasir Panjang, also peddling flowers, cozy home décor, and chic furniture. All this pretty stuff may not be a cure-all, but it feels like the beginning of a beautiful relationship with life and the people in it.