Tommy Lau Min has a similar parenting philosophy to Jenny Tsang. Lau became disabled after a car accident damaged his cervical nerves 11 years ago. Although he regained movement in his hands after years of physiotherapy, he still cannot walk and has to use a wheelchair.
After his marriage ended in divorce around three years ago, Lau took on the major share of raising his son Jonas, now five. Lau enjoys a very close relationship with Jonas but admits he used to worry that his son would feel inferior because he had a disabled dad. He takes Jonas to school in his wheelchair by having him sit on his lap and recalls that he used to drop him off one street earlier, letting their helper walk the rest of the way with him.
“It was because I didn’t want his classmates or other parents and teachers to find out that he has a disabled father, which would make him feel inferior,” says Lau.
Luckily, his fears were misplaced. One time, Lau picked Jonas up from school, he was very anxious at first but Jonas ran towards Lau when he saw him and immediately introduced him to his friends. At that moment, Lau felt very happy and grateful. He says he often experiences curious looks from the others on the street but Jonas has already adapted to it and it is no longer a problem.
Although his disability means he cannot go out to work, it also means Lau gets to spend a lot of time with his son. It is clear the two are close – Jonas loves sitting on his dad’s lap and says “I love Daddy the most” when asked if he likes his father.
Galant Ng Ka-lun and his wife also enjoy very close relations with their two children, aged three and one. The couple both suffer from visual impairment. Ng lost vision in his right eye after he had a retinal detachment 20 years ago and currently his left eye has only five per cent of its original seeing ability due to amblyopia. His wife has suffered from a degenerative eye disease since she was in Secondary Five.
Due to their weakened eyesight, they often accidentally hit and step on their children. They also find it difficult to identify words and objects. It seems their older child has developed ways to make up for this. He has a proactive character and often takes the initiative to help his parents, such as picking up objects and identifying routes.
“I think he became mature earlier than other kids,” says Ng. “For ordinary kids, they often let their parents or helpers lead the way, but for my son, I think our disability gave him an opportunity to get in touch with society earlier.”
Although Ng is grateful for his son’s mature character, he is concerned about the challenges the family will face as the children grow up. “They are still small, so they haven’t started to compare [themselves] with the others,” says Ng. “They still haven’t realised the differences between us and other parents.” Ng expects problems will arise down the road.
Obi Ho, a social worker at the Hong Kong Federation of the Blind, says there are many cases where parent-child relationships worsen during the children’s adolescence.
“Children will start to be rebellious and self-centred during the teenage years. They will try to hide the fact that their family is getting help from the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) and their parents are disabled,” says Ho.
Ho points out that many disabled parents have a relatively low educational level, so it is harder for them to find jobs and they are less able to earn a steady and reasonable income. As a result, conflicts about money issues are common. Children growing up in these families will have feelings of inferiority, resentment and unhappiness.