All my life, I have only stayed in HDB flats. And when we were planning to get a place of our own, husband and I were adamant that we would only get a HDB flat. The logic was simple: why spend so much money on frills – security, manicured grounds, swimming pools, built-in furniture – that we would possibly not need?
We were lucky to get the first flat that we balloted for and we have been very happy with our home for the past 4.5 years. And now that we have a child, I am even more grateful that we are staying in the heartlands, in a HDB estate, thanks to the kampung culture that we have.
Here, A is exposed to little kids from all races. When I bring him downstairs to play, we usually see a mix of older and younger children with their caregivers. Some are zooming around in their scooters and bikes, others are being pushed in their strollers. The caregivers smile and chat, the kids play together.
A has chased down bubbles with kids more than twice his age (not difficult to find, really, considering that he is only 20 months old!) and has enjoyed being pushed on a merry-go-round by a pair of siblings.
At the same time, across from our flat is a family whose two young girls have adopted A as their “didi”. Every evening, the girls would run over to our door to say hi to A. They love our cats and always want to see Coco and Emi in action. In turn, A adores the girls and yells “CHEH CHEH!” whenever he hears them at the lift landing.
People aside, I love that HDB estates have open spaces for the children to run wild at. At my mother’s place, the kids and their caregivers usually gather in the evening at the multi-purpose hall on the ground floor. And the kids love it! They are all running amok, chasing one another, throwing stones into the drains, picking leaves. Sometimes they play together, other times they engage in parallel play. This is perfect for my little social butterfly, who loves to say hi and goodbye to all and sundry.
Near my mum’s place is a badminton court and she brings the boys down to play ball on the days that A is with her. Based on the photos that she has been sharing with me, the boys apparently play basketball and badminton with the other kids in the neighbourhood. It’s crazy cute.
Compare that to my in-laws’ condominium: it’s lush and has lots of greenery. BUT it lacks a wide, open space for kids to run around in and we often see some of them playing by the roadside, which is pretty unsafe. In fact, my in-laws always put A in a stroller when they go downstairs for fear of him running out onto the road – and rightly so too. But this also means that he doesn’t get the chance to work those little legs of his.
Yes, HDB estates may be more “cluttered” than private housing, they may not be as well-kept. The lifts can be rickety and you don’t get private lift landings. But I also remember how I made friends with my neighbours’ kids, and how we walked to school together. We used to spend school holidays together, and would go swimming during the weekends. That was the kind of life that I had and that’s the kind of life that I want my son to have.
I’m probably just a kampung girl at heart. 🙂