The children in Kinabalu

By Erisa Tan Weiqing

The quake in Sabah has been on my mind since this morning, when I first read about it. I’ve spent most of the weekend cocooned from the rain and world affairs. The entrance back into real life wasn’t pleasant.

Cognitively, I know that tragedies – involving innocent children, no less – happen everywhere, all the time. But there is something about it happening close to home that hits hard. It bypasses the protective apathy or ignorance you wear as armor, and it hurts straight into the guts.

I made the admitted mistake of watching a clip of the survivors from TKPS coming home. It was anything but reassuring. Children aged 12 or less were crying in a broken, irreparable way; the kind of cry that you cannot get over. No child should have to go through that. Even the survivor’s parents, who would be relieved, appeared distraught. They came too close to tragedy, and the striking possibility of their child being lost is too real to give them peace I’d think.

Most of all, I feel for the parents of children who did not survive. Just – I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like for them. The hell of waiting for news and the loss of their child. I’m not discounting the death of any other demographic, but here there’s an extra dimension of grief: guilt, responsibility, the utter helplessness.

The first body to be identified. I read an interview had with her father. He didn’t want her to go initially, fearing for her safety. But he had denied her of a school trip previously and didn’t want to disappoint her again. It struck me just how difficult it is to be parent. Your decision to protect or please, the stark lack of guidelines on just when to let go. There is such a dearth of control over your child’s safety and happiness, no matter how hard you try.

One day I’ll have my own child. Or at least I really, really want a child. Then, I’ll fully understand the fears of being a parent that comes with the joy. Even now I feel their hurt – and this tiny glimpse of it is enough to disturb me deeply. I have no idea whether I’d be able to handle he full responsibility.

Future me, if you are with child and reading this, please do me a favor and give him/her/them a big, tight hug right now. Do it everyday. You can never fully prevent harm but at least let them know they’re loved.

This article first appeared on Hey, Erisa on 7 June 2015. It is reproduced with permission.


Tanjong Katong Primary School has my full support for the Mount Kinabalu Program

Those lambasting Tanjong Katong Primary School teachers are just plain ignorant

Dear teachers, thank you for all that you do for generations of students