You are not alone in this situation.
I am Muhammad Daniaal and I am Mdm Salimah’s son. Growing up, it was quite hard for me and my siblings because we were still in primary school when my parents went to prison. In fact, two of my younger sisters had not even started schooling yet.
During those few years while my parents were in prison, I didn’t feel like talking to people. I also didn’t feel like meeting new people outside. And when I wanted to go out and have fun, I did not have enough money. I didn’t dare to ask my guardian for money either. So, I worked part-time as a service crew while I was still in school. At first it was tough, but slowly, I became more independent as I had to be responsible for my siblings too. I would try my best to always buy them crackers and fruits for them to eat.
It was very tough for me to manage my studies as well. I was very much alone. Even when I collected my PSLE results, I went alone. I did not have anyone to go with me or congratulate me. Because I did not dare to socialise or to tell anyone that my mom and dad were in prison. I struggled to really understand why my mom and dad were not around. It was hard for me to accept that I did not have them with me – hence, I just wanted to be alone. I ate alone, sat in class alone, and even celebrated my birthdays alone too.
But when I was in Primary 5 and 6, my form teacher started to talk to me. She had asked where my parents were as I kept failing my mother tongue. From then, she tried to guide me to accept my situation and to improve on myself. She didn’t pressurise me and even gave me extra lessons. Slowly, I got better at my studies and made it to Secondary School. She was the most caring teacher I’ve met and is still my role model till today.
Another teacher that played a big part in shaping my character was the teacher-in-charge of the concert band in my Secondary school. When I first joined the concert band, it was quite difficult for me and I felt like giving up. But my teacher said to me, “If you give up, you are a coward.” It pushed me to give it a deeper thought and to try harder. Although it was tough, I eventually managed to get a better role as a section leader when I moved on to ITE and joined the concert band there. The role gave me the responsibility to teach others like how I was taught before. For me, this built my character. Now, I’m not one who gives up easily.
After my parents came out of prison, I felt that there was some awkwardness. I didn’t talk to my parents for a while. I kept my distance. It was also tough to get each other’s trust back. But when I started talking to my mom about the past and my siblings, we started to get along better and go out to eat dinner together. At first it was quite hard, but now I feel grateful that my mom and dad have been by my side ever since.
After everything eventually settled down, I spoke to my mom and dad seriously. I said, “We are getting older. If you go into prison again, what are we going to do? I don’t want my siblings to suffer anymore.” I knew it would definitely be heartbreaking if my siblings have to go through this again. Till now, whenever my mom has a hard time with my younger sisters, I will usually be the “discipline master”. Especially if my dad is not around, I would usually chide my sisters and tell them that they need to focus on their studies. They also tend to quarrel with my mom, but I always remind them that despite all that has happened, we should be grateful and not speak to our parents disrespectfully.
Right now, I’m currently 19 years old and waiting for National Service (NS) enlistment. I’m quite excited for NS because many of my friends have been through it already. Currently I am also under a BCA scholarship, which has helped me a lot. I’ve been given some options to join various company with good prospects too. That would really help me to take up the leadership role in my family after I am done with NS. I want to let my father retire as he is going to be 66 years old soon, so that I am ready to be the sole breadwinner for the family. After my NS, I would also like to find a house that is bigger for my younger siblings to stay in, with rooms for them to stay on their own. So, I plan to work full-time as an engineer or technician. I also recently told my mom and dad that I plan to get married at 25 or 26 years old as I’ve met and been with someone for 4 years now.
I’m very happy with my mom and dad’s progression so far, and very thankful that they are by my side. I can see how my parents have changed so vastly and tried to improve their character to make the family more united. For those who are going through what I’ve been through, I want to let you know that you are not alone in this situation. Try to be outspoken and try to be stronger. You will find the support you need and may even become the support your loved ones need too.