Shentonista Of The Year 2020: Silver Lining


Grace & Family

Finding a silver lining isn’t always the easiest task, especially in the midst of a pandemic, but for Grace, her family has been her source of strength and support over the past year. We first met her as part of a beloved series on Shentonista—our Mother’s Day special, where each mother took snapshots of how their new normals looked like—and it was a joy for the Shentonista team to finally meet the family we’ve been corresponding with for over a year. Though she might claim that patience is hardly her strong suit, Grace and her husband, Arthur, have taught their children, Joshua and Faith, the importance of kindness, humility and—pun not intended—grace. As the winner of the best Circuit Breaker content, the family was treated to an activity of their choice, for which they picked a pottery class with Dirty Hands Only, and a studio shoot. During their experience, we had the chance to catch up with not just Grace, but her family, about the year that’s passed, and the path ahead. 

What was the biggest change that occurred in your life since we met you last year?
Faith started going to primary school. She’s going to CHIJ, which is also my alma mater, and this shoot feels timely for this reason—it feels like we’re capturing a milestone year. Apart from that, it’s been quite a stagnant year, but we learnt to make the most of what we have. 

What’s the biggest life lesson you learnt from last year?
To be grateful that we have each other. We’ve seen a lot of each other over the past year, naturally, because we’re all cooped up at home, but when I think about those who have to live alone or those who cannot live together, I’m reminded of how grateful I am to have my family. On the other hand, I’ve also seen couples who’ve gotten divorced, because their flaws confronted them when they’re in a small space together. I’ve told Arthur many times: “Thank God we can stand each other!” We quarrel too, but it’s been nothing detrimental. I think being able to communicate and share each other’s space is a blessing not to be taken for granted. 

What has been a personal project you’ve been embarking on these days?
This isn’t quite a personal project, but my work includes branding and creating collaterals for events. Last year, when the Covid-19 restrictions hit, a lot of the events were either cancelled or postponed, so I branched out to other aspects, like digital events and EDMs. One of the things I came up with was personalised notecards. I’d already been creating them for my friends, but also branched it out to do it for clients, with elements of their personality and things they love. It’s been quite fun because I get to ‘stalk’ the people I’m creating the notes for on Instagram (laughs). It’s a time when customisation and personal touches are even more important, even with something as small as a notecard. 

As children grow, our relationship with them changes too—how do you think your relationship has developed with both Joshua and Faith over the past year?
Our relationship is always changing. It’s not just them who grow upI grow up by watching and teaching them as well. I’m quite tough on them when it comes to work and education, and I try to get them to always meet their deadlines. As a person, I’m also quite a perfectionist, so if I didn’t have deadlines for my projects, I’ll keep working on them until I’m satisfied. I make sure they don’t fall behind in that area and that they also keep to their deadlines. I’m learning that I should chill at times, and not fear my own insecurities. My mother advised me that I should accept myself and my flaws first. What’s more important is that the children remain well, because homework is such a small part of life (laughs). 

While Joshua and Faith decided to embark on an exploratory mission around our studio, we sat down with Grace and Arthur, who shared more snippets from their daily life. 

What’s a parenting skill that you learnt from each other?
Arthur (A): How to be a mother (laughs). This sounds a bit obvious, but the truth is that the kids know their mother for nine months more than they know me. It’s a fact of life that she’s different from me biologically.

Grace (G): How to be patient. I can get quite frustrated when I’m asking them to finish their school work, but Arthur’s able to take a step back and see the big picture when I get too focused on the small details. He’s chill and more objective when he faces stress. 

If you could change one habit about the other person, what would it be?
A: Nothing, actually. As clichéd as it sounds, I think it’s more important that we each merge our perspectives. We have a bit of an age gap so it’s about coming to a common middle ground between our two different schools of thought. It takes both hands to clap. 

G: I agree, I think wanting to change someone’s habit is usually caused by your own frustrations or expectations. I’m slowly learning this too. You need to start by accepting yourself first, before wanting to change others. 

Alternatively, what’s one habit you’d like them to pick up?
A: I want us to be able to cook together, so maybe Grace can expand her cooking skills (laughs). Ever since the Circuit Breaker, I’ve been cooking a lot more, and I’m happy to do so, but it’s always good to share the workload. 

G: Arthur’s language of love is acts of service. So whenever one of us is sick or not feeling well, he’ll show that he cares through actions—he’ll cook for us, bring us everywhere we need, fetch anything. I love that about him, but I think it’ll be nice if he asked us how we’re feeling, so we can hear his concern too. Words of affirmation are sometimes difficult for all of us, but the kids like hearing it from him. 

Before the commencement of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), we got the chance to bring the family to an exclusive pottery class at Dirty Hands Only. The kids definitely loved getting their hands dirty with the clay, and we decided to chat with them more about the creative genes running in their veins.   

We know your family is very hands-on and quite crafty. What’s one activity all of you like to do together as a family?
A: We love going for walks and picnics together. Joshua loves visiting the garden—other kids will hold their favourite toys, but he used to hold his favourite leaf or twig. Faith enjoys animals more, and I think that comes from me. I used to have 15 cats back in my kampung days (laughs). 

How was the pottery experience at Dirty Hands Only?
G: It was our first time trying pottery, so I think it was a good experience for all of us. The kids really like working with their hands, and we’re looking forward to getting our creations. 

Joshua: I really liked it, it was so interesting! 

How do you encourage your children to explore the arts?
G: We try to foster creativity in our kids through everyday life. We try not to limit art to just art lessons and art projects because there is so much artistry in our everyday surroundings. Creation itself is the most beautiful canvas. We love to ask our kids to make observations of nature, like the colour combinations, patterns, textures, proportions, relationships, etc. Everything is created with an intention and purpose. I feel that art is like that, there is always beauty in it, relationships between elements and a message to convey. We encourage our kids to ask questions, like what does this colour make me feel, what scene do I imagine when I hear this piece of music, is this typeface suitable? We are surrounded by art and beauty, even in the imperfections.

Is there a unique family habit or tradition that you try to enforce?
G: We take every opportunity we can to celebrate. It doesn’t need to be a big milestone, it can just be the kids doing well for their papers or something going well at work. I find that it’s a nice encouragement for the kids, and it allows us to spend family time. We don’t do things that are extravagant or grand, it’s more about keeping alive the intention to cherish moments through life. We usually get ice cream or cake, so I’m quite familiar with confectionary and cafés around Singapore (laughs). 

Note: Our shoot at Dirty Hands Only was conducted before the second tightening of Covid-19 safe management measures that came into effect from 16th May 2021. Our studio shoot took place after the Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) measures were relaxed on Monday, 14th June 2021. 

Leave a Reply

What others are saying

There are no comments yet.