28 April 2014, by Tan Yi Lin
No, this entry isn’t going to be IVF-related and about baring my innermost thoughts and feelings about IVF – along with the shenanigans of my inner-plumbing – to all and sundry. After all, we’ve been doing that for the past 4 years ever since we went public in 2010 about our bumpy journey to parenthood.
This is about our resolution for 2014: Going Public.
The idea came about around the time that the government released the Draft Master Plan 2013. Weaved into the grand plans for new developments were mentions of preserving heritage and memories, keeping and enhancing natural greenery, and creating more social spaces for the community to enjoy. Reading about the plans for the different regions around Singapore, it dawned on me how little I knew about my home. Outside of our comfort zone of air-conditioned suburban malls and neighbourhood playgrounds, there was so much more to experience and enjoy. 710 square kilometres isn’t vast and yet, I had barely set foot on most of it.
Furthermore, we had befriended an expatriate couple whose son went to Coco’s school and they regaled us with accounts of their adventures to playgrounds all around Singapore – some of which we weren’t even aware of, much less visited. I was starting to feel rather ashamed that non-Singaporeans were making the effort to explore and experience our island – by public transport, no less – while I, the lazy Singaporean with a car, was guilty of driving (or rather, being driven) 5 minutes to NTUC Extra and calling that a weekend family outing. Don’t get me wrong – grocery-shopping is a necessity and supermarket trips can be educational, but weekly jaunts down the aisles to monitor milk formula prices or analyse diaper discounts are unhealthy in more ways than one.
That was also around the time when I was so moved by a screening of ‘Old Places’ by local filmmaker Royston Tan that I vowed to create a childhood to remember for my children.
Enter January 2014 and the birth of our new family project: Enjoying 2014 one public space at a time. Since then, we’ve been on the lookout for community spaces to bring the girls to. The programme is varied. Sometimes, it’s reacquainting ourselves with places – and memories – from our childhood. Other times, it’s just enjoying familiar ones. When we’re feeling especially restless or adventurous, we go in search of new destinations to explore.
“What’s a public space?” you may ask. Online dictionaries offer differing definitions of the term and this article explains the role of public spaces in making a city work. Another useful guide to explaining what a public space is is in the acronym “P-L-A-C-E-S”, which encapsulates the qualities that a successful public space should embody.
People + Programming
Public spaces are spaces for EVERYONE, and well-used and loved by people. Since we have young children, we tend to lean towards choosing places that are family-friendly (i.e. relatively car-free, with wide sidewalks or lawns where kids can run freely) or have programmes that they can participate in.
While we love Singapore’s inviting waterbodies and natural greenery, it’s a challenge to hike through verdant nature reserves or kayak across a reservoir with a 1 year-old and 2 year-old in tow. Boardwalks and waterfront promenades are the answer to our search for waterfront access and pockets of greenery in our urban environment.
The well-planned walking routes bring us close to water, are easy on our feet and provide frequent opportunities to pause and observe nature ‘live’ – in the form of a spider skilfully spinning a web or a colony of busy ants hard at work.
By the way, lush landscaping isn’t restricted to parks and nature areas – commercial buildings are increasing incorporating public courtyards where people can just hang out at, and soak in the buzz and activity of the city.
Great public spaces are easily accessible by public transport. While we are privileged to be able to travel by car, I think it’s great that families such as Coco’s classmate’s are not deterred by the fact that they don’t drive and are wholeheartedly seeking out these community spaces too. In fact, some of these places have been designated as car-free zones, making them even more accessible, enjoyable and safer for everyone.
With two small humans (and their big bag of necessities – diapers, wipes, snacks, water, change of clothes) to haul around, comfort ranks high on our list of must-haves when selecting where to go on the weekend. Shady spots provide respite from the burning tropical sun; ample seating for tired legs, aching shoulders and breaking backs are most welcomed; thoughtfully-located ramps make manoeuvring a stroller easier (not that we bring ours since Claire absolutely refuses to sit in it); good lighting and a safe environment go miles in reassuring us that we’re not exposing our little ones to danger and less-than-desirable situations.
We have had the occasional run-in with, regretfully, poorly-maintained public areas. While these make for disappointing finds, we just take them in our stride and count them as little adventures, nonetheless.
Excellence in Design + Eye for Details + Engaging
Well-designed spaces are a joy a hang out at. These could be in the form of thoughtfully-positioned viewing areas that offer an expansive panorama of our city skyline, or even just the little things that set the place apart from others.
Sense of Delight + Sharing of Spaces
As public spaces are, more often than not, located outdoors, most outings have us bathed in sweat, dealing with hot and cranky babies, battling (my) crowd-phobia or being shat on by birds (no kidding). But what makes every outing so meaningful is the sense of delight that these places evoke – be it from childhood nostalgia, or the adrenalin rush from tumbling freely on an open lawn, or the opportunities for family bonding, or the interactions with other members of the community and with nature.
For the lack of a better word, it’s just so nice seeing people sharing a space and enjoying one another’s company and communally partaking in what our little island has to offer everyone.
THIS is what weekends should be made of (preferably without the bird poop!)