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I regret not spending more time with my dad. I won’t make the same mistake with my kids

I learnt about how precious time spent with loved ones is, in the worst possible way.

Mr Louis Ng holding daughter Ella at a birthday celebration with his parents and wife in this 2014 photo. It turned out to be the last birthday celebration he had with his father.

Mr Louis Ng holding daughter Ella at a birthday celebration with his parents and wife in this 2014 photo. It turned out to be the last birthday celebration he had with his father.

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I learnt about how precious time spent with loved ones is, in the worst possible way. 

I was at a meeting when my mum called to tell me that Daddy was diagnosed with stage IV prostate cancer.

He didn’t have much time left, even though he was still relatively young in his mid-60s.

As a family, we did not have much time left together. This came as a complete shock to all of us. Daddy never had health issues before the diagnosis. One day he looked healthy and the next day, he was dying. 

 We tried our best to treasure whatever time we had left together. We had our first holiday. We went on a cruise and had precious family time.

I regret that was our first family holiday. Daddy was always very busy at work. But he didn’t work for himself or purely for money. He never wore branded clothes nor liked expensive things. He worked hard for his family, his colleagues and his company where he was a manager for 42 years.

He worked hard because he cared deeply for my mum, my sister and me. He was a pillar of support for all of us.

Daddy fought hard to try to beat the cancer. We lost count of the number of medical appointments he had. We did our best to accompany him to every appointment and I regret that I could not take him all the time. 

He was also in and out of hospital. His last admission to Singapore General Hospital was in May 2015.

On the day I decided that I would take leave to spend more time with him in hospital, he passed away, at the age of 67. He lost consciousness before I made it to the hospital. I never got a chance to say a proper goodbye.

I made a mistake and took too many things for granted. I wish I could turn back time and have more time with Daddy, but I know that is impossible. Five years on, I still live with regret. Regret truly is an incurable ache. 

Daddy was close to retirement when cancer struck. He was looking forward to spending more time with his family and his grandchildren whom he loved dearly.

But that is how cruel life can be and how important it is for us to realise that time is the most precious commodity.

I know I can’t change what had happened in the past. So the next best thing that I could do is to treasure the time I have with my loved ones and to fight to give Singaporeans more time to spend with our loved ones.

This is why in the past five years, I’ve spoken up repeatedly on this issue in Parliament, calling for parent-care leave, more childcare leave, paternity and maternity leave and annual leave. I devoted my recent Budget 2020 speech to the need for more childcare and parent-care leave for Singaporeans. 

Our policies can change and should change to be more pro-family, especially during periods when our loved ones are unwell or when there are family emergencies.

Mr Ng with his wife and three daughters. Photo courtesy of Louis Ng

I know firsthand how difficult it is to balance work and family time. As a father of three young children aged three to six years old, I too struggle in this aspect.

As a Member of Parliament, I often attend community events on weekday nights and weekends. I’m seldom there to read my kids bedtime stories and tuck them into bed. I try to make up for that by making sure I send them to school and pick them up and have lunch together as often as I can. 

Over the years, it has become a routine. Still, gradually, I found myself rushing in the morning so that I won’t be late for my work meetings.

Then one day, my daughter Ella asked: “Daddy, why don’t I take the school bus so that you do not need to rush anymore?”

Her words cut through my heart like a knife and taught me an important lesson. It was a timely reminder for me to slow down and appreciate the time I have with them.

It made me recall an important advice from Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who shared this at a Focus on the Family Singapore dinner last year: “Life is a one way ticket. A baby will only remain a baby for a very short time. They will grow up before we even realise it. The thing about life is we cannot rewind time. So my advice to young parents here is, your children need you, they need you desperately, and they need you only for a very, very transient time in their lives. If we miss it, we can’t get it back.”

Our children need us and our parents need us too.

Our children need us for a transient time before they grow up and our parents need us for a transient time before they pass on. 

I fought back tears when I delivered my Budget Speech last week because I miss Daddy so much and I know that I will never see him again.

That night, I took my daughters Katie and Poppy to the supermarket to buy groceries. Out of nowhere, Katie turned to me and said: “Daddy you are my best friend”.

It was another warm and fuzzy feeling moment as I held her hand and walked home.

Spend time with those you love. One of these days, you will either say I wish I had or I’m glad I did.

For Daddy, “I wish I had” but for my daughters, I will make sure it will be “I’m glad I did”. 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Louis Ng is a Member of Parliament for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency and Chairman of Nee Soon Town Council. He is also founder and chief executive of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, an animal welfare group commonly known as Acres.

Related topics

family parents children fatherhood childcare leave parenting

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