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Tue, Nov 17, 2009
The New Paper
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It's not just dads who turn bad
by Santokh Singh

“WHY are there so many fathers killing their children in Singapore?”

It was a question that came, quite instinctively, from Parveen, who, at 11, is the youngest of my four kids.

She had just picked up The New Paper on Tuesday evening. The headline on the cover read: KIDS WERE STRANGLED. The report was about the murder-cum-suicide case in Ang Mo Kio.

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Isn’t it true?” she responded, giving me her typical “I thought this is something you would already know” look.

“This is the third or fourth story I have read in your paper of a father killing a child.”

Just to be sure she knew what she was talking about, I asked her to tell me the other stories she had read.

She recounted: “There was the one in which the father is said to have killed his daughter because she played with his cigarettes, and then there was one more where the father went to a shelter, took his baby and killed her also.”

“Now, this. So that makes it three and I am sure there was another which I cannot recall now,” she said quite calmly.

I asked her how she felt about the deaths of these kids.

“I am sad and worried.”

“Worried?” I probed.

“No, not worried, just sad, maybe disturbed. Don’t worry Daddy, I am not worried that you will kill me,” she quipped.

“But I am worried that there are so many cases.”

I realised that any case of an adult killing a child must be particularly horrifying to a child. Then she added: “It usually has to do with drinking or gambling or money. I wish fathers would not do that.

“Money is not everything in life, right Daddy? You always say that.”

As I was still considering a response, she continued: “Or maybe there should always be another adult in the house when there are fathers who cannot control themselves.

“The mother or grandmother must be around to protect the children.”

I asked her if she thought it was only fathers who ill-treated or abused their children, and she said: “I don’t know. So far, the cases I have read are all about fathers who have killed their children or step-children.

“I think there are mothers who also abuse children but maybe not kill them.”

I had to correct that impression and told her that the circumstances which drive people to do such things are gender neutral.

Most importantly, it did not matter if it was the father or the mother, but that these things should not happen and that she can help by praying for kids in such situations, and those left behind to pick up the pieces.

That night, Parveen gave me a stronger and warmer-than-usual good night hug before she went to bed.

It felt really good.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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