Fazli’s Zulkifli’s elder daughter might have been just three years old when they participated in the inaugural FamilyTrees event in March 2022. But that didn’t stop him from patiently going over all the steps of tree planting with the tiny tot.

“I tried to go through everything, like how to hold the shovel, how deep to dig and how to water the plant. I didn’t want to just plant a tree, I wanted to embed an educational aspect into the activity,” says the 36-year-old mediator and Dads for Life member, even if his daughter’s favourite part of the process was waterplay.

“It’s okay, at least she remember something!” laughs Fazli, who also brought his wife, younger daughter (who was one at the time) and mother-in-law to the event.

Fazli and his folks were one of 10 families who took part in the tree planting initiative held at East Coast Park. It marked the kick-off for the Year of Celebrating SG Families; FamilyTrees is also part of the OneMillionTrees movement, a nationwide effort to plant a million trees across Singapore by 2030.

Nurturing a close-knit family

FamilyTrees was just one of countless outings that Fazli has planned for his family over the years. Whether it is hitting the park near their home or simply going to the mall for window shopping, the loving hands-on father makes sure he does something with his kids every week, rain or shine. But how does the busy civil servant find the fuel to keep up his active parenting style? “My main source of energy is my family! I need to be there for my wife and kids, no matter how tired or sleep-deprived I am,” he shares.

Fazli’s empathic nature is perhaps why being present for his children seems so second nature. “Our children look up to us and treasure us. The way we respond to them or our facial expression can affirm them,” Fazli muses.

The former teacher also credits his parents for their influence in the way he is parenting his own children today. “I have certain attachments to the events or memories from childhood. I want to do the same for my kids. They should know that if things go wrong, they can reach out to someone and that person could be me,” he says.

Looking to the future with FamilyTrees

Fazli concedes that cognitively, his family will not be able to recall the details of most of what they have done together, but there is precious value in building memories through photos.

“When the girls come to me for YouTube for instance,” he says with a laugh, “they will come across photos of us at certain places and ask about them. This is how we jog their memory and engage them in meaningful conversation.”

And in the case of FamilyTrees, Fazli and his family have an actual site to revisit anytime they want. They last cycled past the sapling they planted during the December holidays of 2022.

Fazli reflects, “The tree may not mean anything to my daughter now, but maybe 20 years later, she can bring her boyfriend to that tree and tell him about it. It’s meaningful this way.”