For most children, their mums are their earliest influencers … and probably the most powerful one too. Our mother is the one who first shaped us, from feeding us our favourite food to inculcating in us values that she believes in.

So, it’s only natural that some children share the same likes as their mothers, and venture down the same paths. In conjunction with Mother’s Day this Sunday, Star2 speaks to mothers and children who bond over their shared interests and hobbies.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the loving and caring mummies in the world!

Amma’s dance odyssey

Indian classical dancer and instructor Geetha Shankaran-Lam lives and breathes dance. So, it’s only natural that her three children would follow in her footsteps.

Hariraam Tingyuan Lam, 27, Arunagiri Szeyuan Lam, 18, and Sangametra Yuiyuan Lam, 16, have been under her tutelage since they were six. After years of rigorous training, they have mastered various forms of Indian classical dance including odissi, bharatanatyam and kathak.

“I think we picked up our interest in dance when we were in Amma’s womb. Even when she was pregnant, she was always involved in dance – be it practising or teaching. We have music and dance running in our DNA,” says Hariraam, 27.

Geetha and her husband Lam have passed their passion for the arts on to their children. Photo: Geetha Shankaran-Lam

Arunagiri adds: “When we were younger, we followed Amma for dance lessons. We would sit quietly during lessons and many a time, imitate her dance steps. That was the stepping stone to our dance journey.”

Sangametra, a Form 4 student at SMK Vivekananda in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, says her mother’s passion as an artiste and teacher spurred her interest in the performing arts.

“While Amma can be strict as a dance teacher, she is a wonderful mother. She taught us how to appreciate dance, family togetherness and discipline. She loves to cuddle with us, help us with our schoolwork and watch movies together. That’s what we love best about her,” she says.

Geetha, who is married to theatre director, writer and drama coach Lam Ghooi Ket, believes dance has helped her cement a strong bond with her children.

“We are fond of each other and never hide our feelings. I have learnt much from my children; they are my teachers. Children have the capacity to love and forgive us for our ignorance. I am a better mother because of them,” she says.

Through dance, Geetha and Lam have introduced their children to music. Hariraam plays the violin, gambus and teaches nattuvangam (rhythmic enunciations for classical dances). He writes and composes music, and plays in orchestras.

Arunagiri is a tabla player and has developed a dub-step-hip-hop fused dance style. Sangametra has picked up the veena.

“My children have been raised with kindness and the goodness of both our cultural values. I have raised them to respect the art form of dance, because it is the source of my all. Dance gave me my everything, including my love, my life and courage. So, dance is my gift to them together with a heart full of love,” says Geetha.

Parents should nurture their children every step of the journey, she adds. “Children are gifts from God. Take time to watch each child from the time you have them. Listen to your children and ensure you are always there for them.”

Geetha has no big demands of her children for Mother’s Day. She would be content to receive hugs from her children and husband this Sunday morning.

“They usually climb into my bed to present me with cards, a meal or flowers. And of course, more cuddling. Usually, they are often extra chatty on that day. My wish for them is to be mindful, independent and have good health.”

Bryan Chew gave up his job in Seattle to help his parents run the family flower business. Photo:  The Star/Chan Boon Kai

The blooming florists

Bryan Chew started helping at his parents’ flower shop when he was nine, then he ventured far from the business. He earned his MBA from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the US, then stayed after landing a job at AT&T Wireless in Seattle, Washington.

He was all set on a career in IT, but after two years overseas, he returned to Georgetown, Penang, to be closer to family. In 2002, he joined Intel and the next year he launched a food business, a stone’s throw from his parents’ shop O’Hara Florist.

Chew, who joined O’Hara 13 years ago, never dreamt of taking over the shop, which his parents Chew Tat Hin and Honey Bee Lim Poh Bee started in 1970. The 42-year-old finally sold his food business in 2005 and now manages O’Hara.

“My parents started their shop from scratch. At nine, I was roped in to help out with operations. I knew how hard it was to run the business. I never intended to take over after stepping into the working world,” says Chew.

“As I grew older, I began to realise the importance of helping my parents in their old age. Till today, Dad still manages the finances while Mum is in charge of floral arrangement.

“Running my own business enabled me to have flexible working hours. During my free time, I would swing by my parents’ shop to help with the odds and ends. It started off as a part time commitment. Eventually, it became a full time job,” says Chew.

Chew has no regrets giving up his corporate career for the flower business.

“Essentially, family matters most. It’s nice being able to bond with Mum and Dad on a daily basis. Mum is always around whenever I need advice on floral arrangements. Dad is also around when I need advice on costing and orders. Even at her busiest, Mum always makes time for a chat during meals.”

Chew is happy to work closely with his mother, too. “She keeps the business running like a well-oiled machine. While we may have disagreements on how to run it, we make it a point to talk about it. It’s a good thing that Mum, despite being conventional, is open to new ideas.”

Lim is happy to have her only son at her side. “Working with Bryan means we get to spend time together. He is hardworking, creative and loving. The secret to running our business smoothly is appreciating each other’s strengths.”

“Equally important is respect for each other,” says Lim, who is also the founder of Penang O’Hara Floral Art Society and a former World Flower Council (Asia) president. Chew has also learnt a few life lessons from his mum.

“From watching her over the years, I’ve come to realise that floral art is not just a means to make a living, but more as a platform where art can flourish. She’s shown me that with the right skills, even the simplest bouquet of flowers can be beautiful,” says Chew, who plans to treat his mother to a meal on Mother’s Day.

Nor Aini with husband Mohd Niza Bakri and daughter Nurunnauroh Nazeyah on the Gunung Ledang hiking trail in Segamat, Johor. Photo: Nor Aini Mohd Apandi

To greater heights

Concerned that her daughter was not exercising enough, Nor Aini Mohd Apandi – a teacher from SK Panglima Adnan in Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan and a the mother of four – decided to introduce Nurunnauroh Nazeyah Mohd Niza, 11, to the wonders of the outdoors.

“Nurunnauroh is a homely girl. She likes to bake, keep house, and occasionally play badminton with her brothers. I felt she needed to soak up some sun and have fun outdoors,” says Nor Aini, 46.

In 2016, Nor Aini took her daughter hiking. Today, both mother and child are both outdoor enthusiasts. “These days, Nurunnauroh is the first to wake up and get ready before our morning hike. We go hiking almost every Saturday with a group of friends,” she says.

Our favourite hiking trails in Negri Sembilan include Bukit Batu Putih in Port Dickson, Gunung Angsi in Seremban, Gunung Datuk in Rembau and Gunung Besar Hantu in Jelebu.”

They have also left their footprints on numerous trails including Bukit Tabur at Bukit Melawati, Kuala Lumpur;  Gunung Ledang in Tangkak, Johor; and Pine Tree Hill in Fraser Hill’s, Selangor. Among her siblings, Nurunnauroh is the only child who accompanies her parents on hikes.

“My older brothers usually go on hiking expeditions and other sports activities with their friends. I love being with Ibu and Ayah on hiking trips. I’ve learnt so much from them including survival tips and identifying dangerous plant species,” says Nurunnauroh, a Year 5 student from SK Panglima Adnan.

Aini says hiking has strengthen her bond with her daughter. She’s happy that Nurunnauroh has grown into an independent and mature girl. “Through hiking, she’s learning so much about the environment. She can identify different plant species and is aware of its medicinal properties too.

Parents should allocate time with their children for outdoor activities. It can be anything, from a visit to the park or zoo to going camping. It’s a great way for children to appreciate nature while building a close family relationship.”