Shiok! #throwback: A Singaporean Children’s Day

All around the world, Children’s Day takes on a different meaning in different countries. In New Zealand for example, locals initiate joint events to commemorate and celebrate the children in their lives – keeping alive the communal and familial ties that New Zealanders so cherish.

Closer to home, Thailand similarly places a great emphasis on this special day. Known also as “Wan Dek”, the belief that “Children are the future of the nation, if the children are intelligent, the country will be prosperous” has ensured that children – like the many historical gems that fill the country – are cherished and affirmed, no matter what their circumstances may be. The Prime Minister designates a theme and slogan for each year, and throughout the country, previously inaccessible locations such as Government and Military areas are opened up to the public and children are encouraged to visit and explore such places.

Despite lacking pompous public parades and often being looked upon as just another school holiday, Children’s Day means no less in Singapore than it does elsewhere. (Remember the unusually entertaining performances that our usually strict teachers put up especially for us back in Primary/Secondary School?) The pain of having to complete homework, whiling away far too much time in fast food joints with friends, or a simple, quiet afternoon spent with eyes glued to Kids Central; the memories of our childhood linger – much like the taste of fruit syrup all over your chin after finishing one of those colourful sng baos (ice popsicles), or the throbbing pain in your gum trying to twist those icy treats open.

Grown up, tired, and busy as we all are with our work and responsibilities, we never truly do stop being children deep down inside. (I mean, who wouldn’t choose a playground swing with a biscuit ice cream over yet another meeting?) While children can’t wait to grow up, and adults can’t wait to be young again, the one common thread that links us all is that we are always growing older. Here, we capture the thoughts of children (in various age groups – literally) before they get any older, and ask them which aspects of their adolescence mean the most to them.

Our childhood often feel like a distant dream, or an age of innocence that cannot be recovered. Rediscovering one of the Nasi Lemak stalls you used to patronise as a kid can bring you back in time, if only for that moment. It is however, the ability to rediscover the vibrancy and uninhibited ways of your childhood that will allow you to transcend boundaries you place upon yourself, day after day, and phase after phase of your life. As Tom Stoppard aptly sums it up: “If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.”

Bobby (Owner of café La Ristrettos) and Ron, Father and Son

Bobby (Owner of café La Ristrettos) and Ron, Father and Son

Favourite treat to chow on as a child

Bobby: Ice Kacang – no, ice ball – from a pushcart near my house. A novelty Ice Kacang and probably hard to find nowadays, an ice ball is similar to an Ice Kacang except that instead of ice being piled in a mound atop the fillings, the ice is moulded around the fillings – very much like a ball, hence the name.

Ron: Salmon Sashimi!

Favourite hangout

Bobby: Just going around the neighbourhood, catching spiders or playing ‘goli’ (marbles).

Ron: Kuala Lumpur

Favourite game as a child

Bobby: The plain old but limitlessly fun Hide and Seek!

Ron: Angry Birds Star Wars! (Ron is a huge fan of Angry Birds, with an impressive collection of the game’s memorabilia to boot. In fact, he only learnt about Star Wars from playing the game!)

The one thing you looked forward to most as a child

Bobby: School holidays, because that meant more play time!

Ron: Going to the dinosaur exhibition at Arts Science Museum!

Kenneth (Front man of local band Orange Cove) and Sera Lain (Final year student at Nanyang Polytechnic), Couple

Kenneth (Front man of local band Orange Cove) and Sera Lain (Final year student at Nanyang Polytechnic), Couple

Favourite treat to chow on as a child

Kenneth: Kaya toast with half-boiled eggs of course! I put a lot of soy sauce and pepper into my eggs, but always still tried to strike a balance between the tastes of the two. It is nice when the kaya toast was actually toasted, but when it wasn’t (as some people serve it), it was OK as well because that meant I could mop up all the eggs with the bread.

Sera Lain: A simple and comforting tomato-based spaghetti… or chicken rice!

Favourite game as a child

Kenneth: Either Pokemon or Digimon, you know, on cartridges and Gameboys?

Sera Lain: Gameboy as well; but I preferred those cartridges with like 150 games in it, my favourite being Super Mario. I liked UNO a lot too.

The naughtiest thing you ever did

Kenneth: I’m not proud to say this but it was stealing money. From my math tutor. My brother and I really disliked her lot (we called her ‘Fat Susan’), and so we decided one day to take $50 out of her wallet. Nothing happened and we didn’t get found out, so the next time round we decided to take $100 instead. It didn’t occur to our young minds that this was an obviously stupid thing to do and as expected, we got caught and our mother gave us hell. Fat Susan never came back either.

Sera Lain: I cheated for my Mandarin spelling test by looking at the answer sheet right under my teacher’s nose.

Something you really disliked when you were younger

Kenneth: Definitely exams!!!

Sera Lain: Vegetables.

Abigail (Third year student at SMU) and Soo Keng (Principal Support Officer, Finance department), Mother and Daughter

Abigail (Third year student at SMU) and Soo Keng (Principal Support Officer, Finance department), Mother and Daughter

Favourite treat to chow on as a child

Abigail: Paddle Pop ice cream! On a sunny day, popping by the petrol kiosk after school for an ice cream was one of the best things to look forward to.

Soo Keng: Mee Siam from a Malay pushcart vendor who would travel past our house every day. I haven’t been able to find a Mee Siam that tastes as good as the one he sold – wrapped in a banana leaf, and with a sauce that is everything you would ever want in a Mee Siam; sweet, spicy, sour, with a taste of dried shrimps, and all in the right proportions.

Favourite game as a child

Abigail: Blind mice at the playground. I always teased the kids who took the game way too seriously. They wouldn’t even peek at all!

Soo Keng: Probably jump rope… or hopscotch. I was very good at both. The hopscotch we played was nothing compared to what children play nowadays! We had various patterns for the hopscotch grids, and even had a stone that we had to simultaneously kick along the grids while hopping on one foot.

Your ambition as a child and your ambition now

Abigail: An archaeologist. I was obsessed with dinosaurs, reading obsessively about them in encyclopedias, which led to my later ambition of becoming an astronaut because I was convinced that dinosaurs wouldn’t be extinct on other planets, and I would finally be able to see them up close. What do I want to be now? Well, I… honestly don’t know.

Soo Keng: A teacher. I didn’t like children or anything; I just liked the idea of teaching children. What do I want to be now? Retired.

What made you feel treasured?

Abigail: Receiving Christmas presents

Soo Keng: Simply watching my parents carry out their day-to-day activities. They didn’t have to use words or gifts to announce their love for us, because we knew that their getting up every day to labour away was love enough.

One moment from your childhood that you’d like to relive over and over again

Abigail: Falling asleep in the car, and then being carried back home by dad.

Soo Keng: Hearing from the other market vendors that my mother actually told them about my good grades. No matter how well I did at school, my mother never actually praised me up front, and so discovering that she actually told other people about it made it feel as though she cared, and that I was receiving her praise indirectly.

How was your childhood? What are your fondest memories from back then? Was there a particularly memorable Children’s Day for you? Share with us your stories @ShiokSG!

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