Ang Sihui does not know the whereabouts of her father, and does not care.
‘I woke up one morning when I was 8, and he was gone,’ says the bubbly 19-year-old.
A fresh diploma graduate in Hospitality and Tourism from Temasek Polytechnic, Sihui is currently working in the advertising and promotions department at the Singapore Zoological Gardens.
With a ready smile, she speaks of her future with zest. She dreams of furthering her studies in Australia, and working hard towards her ambition of being ‘someone in the advertising industry, either in the creative or account servicing,’ she says.
Like every typical teenager, the outgoing Sihui enjoys ‘chilling out’ with her friends on weekends and inviting them over to her house for the occasional steamboat dinner. When asked about her philosophy in life, she enthusiastically quoted her favourite advertising and motivation author, Paul Arden: ‘Never take no for an answer’.
This spunky girl appears confident and mature with a clear direction of what she wants to do with her life.
Judging from impressions, she certainly does not look or behave like one who bears battle scars of her parents divorce during her childhood.
The Department of Statistics in Singapore shows that as of 2003, for every ten marriages registered, almost 3 ended up in divorce. It also listed divorce rate in 2007 being 8.6 per 1000 married females. This number has doubled over the last decade.
According to a speech by Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports, she said: ‘In Singapore, one of the most commonly cited reasons for school dropouts is home-related, and almost half of the juveniles beyond parental control are from families with parents who are divorced, separated, widowed or single. Despite the parents best intensions, these families are more likely to struggle to provide the best home and future for the their children.’
Mrs Yu-Foo also quoted Editor-in-Chief of US News, Mortimer Zuckerman who stated in a recent article that ‘the stable family of two biological parents is ideal for nurturing, inculcating values and planning for a child’s future. By comparison, he stated that children of single parents or broken families are more prone to social problems such as child neglect or abuse, crime and delinquency. They are at risk of failure.’
With the higher incidence of youths from broken families turning delinquent, Sihui is lucky to have emerged unscathed.
Sihui’s lecturer from Temasek Polytechnic, Ms Selene Goh said: ‘Sihui did not fit the profile of a typical student from problem families. She is a happy-go-lucky and cheerful girl who did rather well in school.’
Sihui credits her mother for having brought her up well. She remembers feeling angry and hurt when her father first left, but her mother filled up the void quickly.
‘My mother was a very strong woman. She did not buckle when my father packed up and left. She stayed strong for my sister and I. She was a mother, a father and a friend. I felt no lack in parental love, and she taught me many valuable lessons in life. She is my hero,’ she says.
Today, Sihui remains unclear of what exactly led to her parent’s separation. Only vaguely remembering her mother mention about a business failure with lawsuits involved.
She remembers her father going to her primary school to look for her during recess then. However, angry at his abrupt departure, Sihui said she threw childish tantrums and refused to see him. His sneak visits stopped soon after her mother alerted the school of his unauthorised visits.
Sihui’s father never sought custody for her and her sister.
Although Sihui insists that she does not miss her father, she lets out that she does reminisce the times when her family was complete. She says her parents hardly fought, and they were a well-to-do family who went on holiday trips twice yearly.
‘It was my father’s birthday one year, and my mother, sister and I wanted to spring a surprise on him. We bought him a briefcase, left it on the dining table and hid in the stairwell. I still remember the smile on my father’s face. It was fun. Our family used to have fun times like these,’ she recalls fondly.
Through the years, Sihui has allowed time and the closeness she shares with her mother and older sister to help her completely forget about her father. She no longer holds any resentment for his abandonment.
Although she does not think that her parent’s divorce has affected her growing up years in any strong ways, the one scar the divorce left her, she says, is probably her realistic take on relationships and marriage. She does not romanticise love like many other teenage girls her age, but says that marriage is hard work, which takes compromise.
Despite having unlocked stored away memories of her father with this interview, when asked of her reaction if her dad came back to look for her, Sihui still says: ‘I will show him how well I have done without him, and tell him to stay out of my life.’
*The identity of the interviewee has been changed for privacy sake.
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