086: Should I Bring A Baby With Disabilities To This World?

To Keep The Child Or Not?

If someone is struggling with the painful decision of keeping a baby who is likely to be born with disabilities, what would you say to her?

Two days ago, a pregnant woman sought advice in a parenting group in the social media. She wrote about her dilemma,

“I am at the 13th week of my second pregnancy. A recent Down Syndrome test revealed an absence of nasal bone in the foetus, which caused alarm. I just did a further blood screening test, which will reveal the result in two week’s time. I am worried sick. What if the baby is inflicted with Down Syndrome? If the risk is high, should I keep the baby? Should I bring the poor child to suffer in this world.”

I was mulling over her words till the wee hours of morning. I felt compelled to share with her my thoughts, hoping that it would help the poor mother in her decision-making. Here’s my heartfelt sharing with her, which, to my surprise, garnered a lot of positive reaction from other parents.

Cherish The Opportunity To Make A Deliberate Decision

“I have a child with special needs. And I have not met any parent who deliberately CHOSE to be parenting a child with special needs. So, you have a precious opportunity to make a deliberate decision now.

I can tell you unequivocally that raising a child with special needs is a rewarding gift of love, humility and empathy. Raising my son has taught me what unconditional love and absolute patience mean. The journey so far might have been fraught with difficult moments, but I believe I have emerged a better person.

Weekend runs with my children (Photography by William WK Tan)

You can do even better. But that is only if you and your husband are willing to accept, love and support not only the child, but also each other unconditionally.

The Onus Is Solely On Parents

My son brings me much joy with his innocent smiles and every small step of progress he made. Life itself is a gift, disabilities not withstanding. It is not a suffering to any child if they are adequately loved and cared for. I am of the opinion that the argument children with disabilities will surely lead a life of hardship is flawed.

The real question is whether you and your husband are willing to accept that the child is not the problem. The real issue is whether parents are prepared to:

(1) accept the child fully;

(2) take up their responsibilities;

(3) learn about their child; and

(4) allocate time and resources wisely

Consider your family’s circumstances and the things you need to do to receive the child. If the more you know, the less scared you become, then you are ready to go on the journey.

A Journey (Photography by William WK Tan)

Let’s pray for the best and be prepared for the worst. Hopefully, it is a mistake. Meanwhile, please do serious research by watching video documentaries on raising children with Down Syndrome and read up everything you can find. If possible, visit some happy kids at the Down Syndrome Association. Better still, speak to parents of these kids.

In the end, after u have done all your research and had heart-to-heart discussion with your spouse, whatever decision you arrive is not for others to judge. You would know in your heart if you have made the right decision.”

From the heart (Photography by William WK Tan)

I hope my words have helped someone out there.

William W K Tan

24 October 2020, Saturday

072 Counting Down The Remaining Days Of Our Lives

Our Days Are Numbered

I told a friend MM recently that my days were numbered.

“Probably no more than fifteen thousand day left,” I emphasised strong on the numeral.

MM was stumped for words.

I explained with a chuckle, “I am not dying. Just do your sums. It’s the same for everyone. Most of us do not live beyond 90, as much as I hope to live till 100.”

I continued, “My age has already passed the midway mark. Based on the simple calculation of 365 days a year, fifteen thousand days is probably as best as it can get. And it’s actually fewer if you count only the healthy years.”

Picture from WordPress Photo Library.

“Life feels really short after hearing the way you put it.” lamented MM, “All the more we should treasure our health and cherish every living day.”

Thirty Reams of Papers

Fifteen thousand days is indeed shorter than most of us can imagine.

I captured a powerful image of its brevity when I was in office one day: thirty reams of photocopy papers. That’s it!

Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/

With each ream containing five hundred papers, these thirty reams of papers exactly amounted to fifteen thousand pieces in total.

I thought to myself, “If one piece of paper represents a day, what I choose to write on each piece of paper is tantamount to how I decide to live each day.”

Every day counts only when you make deliberate decisions on how you wish to spend each day of your life.

Counting Down The Days Brings You Closer To Your Loved Ones

Counting down the remaining days of my life has certainly changed the way I spend time with my loved ones.

I decide to spend more time with my parents who are in their eighties. In addition to the fortnightly family gathering, I made it a point to have one-on-one conversation with them on every alternate Monday evenings.

I shared the reason with my thirteen year old son, Conan, “You have thirty thousand days more to go in life. Your dad here used up halved of that. And your grandparents are probably left with no more than three thousand. That realisation made me feel a pressing need to spend more time with them.”

A recent picture taken with my dad n mom at a family dinner on 3 Aug 2019.

Conan said, “I can understand why you are doing this. Time is running out faster than you think though. Even if you are visiting grandpa and grandma weekly, you have only one hundred and fifty times at best.”

I am heartened that Conan has taken to hearts these lessons of life. And I was surprised how a simple idea can trigger an action in me that made my parents happy. It probably also made me a better son, and perhaps, a better parent by example too.

Know What Matters To You Most

Out of curiosity, I wanted to find out how others would respond to the idea of counting down the remaining days of their lives. Interestingly, their responses were varied.

Some agreed that it also gave them an extra impetus to rethink and act on their life priorities quickly. Others rolled their eyes in disbelief at the silly idea and remarked nonchalantly, “Why worry about the inevitable? Life goes on all the same.”

A friend X made a most hilarious response. He said, “Imagine how many meals I would have left after counting the number of remaining days! I pledge myself to be a gourmand for the rest of my life!”

I laughed out aloud.

Picture from WordPress Photo Library.

Our response may all be different, but it certainly does not take a genius to figure out what matters to each of us most!

Taking a leaf out of the bible, know that your days are numbered and spend it with wisdom.

11 Aug 2019, Sunday

071 The Meaning Of Life Is In That Droplet Of Honey!

One of the greatest perks of parenting is to engage children in meaningful conversations. They set us thinking about important questions.

A Conversation About Pursuing Dreams

Several months ago, I had a conversation with my thirteen year old son, Conan, about “pursuing dreams”.

I said to him, “Before you turn fifteen, try to have a dream that makes you passionate enough to learn and do everything you can to realise that dream.”

To illustrate my point, I gave an example, “You love watching Youtube. Rather than spending many hours consuming the content as a viewer, wouldn’t it be more satisfying if you become a content creator? You are capable of that.”

And I went on, “Be a Youtuber!  Isn’t that an idea you had before? I’d rather you try working on your dreams even if it means compromising a little on your school grades.”

Picture from WordPress Photo Library.

Conan’s eyes lit up and remarked, ‘Dad, do you know that successful Youtubers make millions of dollars and influence millions of people?”

I nodded smilingly. “Yes, you told me that before.”

Then he challenged me, ‘But do you also know that only a few become that successful? Most people eventually give up their dreams, make do with a nine-to-five job, settle down with a family and lead a normal life like anyone else. So, what’s the point of pursuing a dream?”  

Ouch! That sounded like an insinuation at his old man. But I was impressed with what he said. Letting out a chuckle, I replied, “You have given an apt description of many people’s lives. And you spoke as if you have seen it all.”

Then, I continued, “Life does seem pointless if you look only at the sketches. Life becomes colourful only if you fill in the colours.”

Picture from WordPress Photo Library.

Conan pondered over my words quietly for a few moments while looking intently at me. 

I posed him a question, “If life is just the same thing for everyone, then you wouldn’t mind swopping your life with anyone else.  So is it okay that if I were to get you to study in another school that you don’t like, have a different set of friends or grow up in another family?”

Conan laughed at the absurdities of my hypothetical question.

I explained, “The truth is life may look the same for everyone, but it carries different meaning for different people.”

He replied, “I think I am okay with my life as it is now. It’s just that I lose interest in things so quickly that I don’t know what my dream is.”

“That’s a problem you have to solve fast. Do you remember you were very keen on playing soccer at primary four, and we supported you fully? But you eventually lost interest when things did not go well despite your best efforts.”

Conan gave an awry smile.

I said, “It’s not a bad experience actually. At least you found out that group sports is not the thing for you.  You get to know yourself better. And one day you will know what your dream really is and no hurdle can stop you from pursuing it. ”

What Is The Point Of Living?

Interestingly, Conan and I had a sequel to this conversation today when I told him about a friend’s seventeen year old daughter’s troubling question to her mother.

Her daughter questioned, “What is the point of life if all we do is to wake up, go to school, eat and sleep. And everyday we repeat the same routine!”

Conan said excitedly, “Dad, tell her this interesting story that I read. A man fell off a cliff and caught onto a tree branch. At the top, there were hungry tigers. And at the bottom were poisonous snakes. In that precarious situation, it’s a matter of time that he could not escape death. Suddenly, the man noticed a droplet of honey dripping off from the branch. And guess what he did? He leaned forward with all his might to lick the honey and cherish every bit of it. The meaning of life is in that droplet of honey.”  

Picture from WordPress Photo Library

That’s a tad too philosophical. I pressed Conan, “What do you think she should do?”

Conan replied, “Let her think through it herself.”

Let’s Hear What Children Have To Say

Growing up, it is only natural that children start to question the meaning of life. But some friends are having serious trouble dealing with the tough questions their children ask. They question the purpose of school life, work and family obligations.

The problem does not lie in our children. It is completely understandable that children who are going through rough patches in life to ask tough questions. The problem, perhaps, is in we adults.

Perhaps, we have become too caught up with dealing the imminent problems (the tigers and snakes) in our lives that we forget to look out for the things that make us feel alive. Or perhaps we have become so jaded that we forget to saviour the occasional honey in life.

Children remind us of important things in life. Let’s engage in meaningful conversation with our children even more. And hear what they have to teach us.

William W K Tan (aka Uncle William)

4 August 2019, Sunday