Donald Tsang

You can't put a price on a father's love

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 June, 2006, 12:00am

When Donald Tsang Yam-kuen issues a statement from the Chief Executive's Office, it may have been drafted by a policy adviser before he gives his approval.

Today is an exception. The chief executive has said something from the heart about a subject that touches all of us. Tomorrow is Father's Day.

Tellingly, Mr Tsang picks up on a theme that surfaces again and again in a city where, all too often, hard work and long hours come before family as well as play. Urging parents to value the time they are with their children, he reveals that time spent with his father reading and discussing his journal of events and people who figured in his daily life were the best childhood moments he could remember, rather than privileged experiences or expensive gifts.

That resonates with the findings of recent polls that most men spend too little time with their children and, when they do, it is usually sharing passive, non-interactive activities, like watching television and movies.

The problem is not confined to fathers. A study last year by the Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood found 55 per cent of parents spend fewer than 15 minutes a day with their children. According to another survey, by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, only 30 per cent polled believed their offspring needed love.

Given how hard many fathers work, they could be forgiven for being indignant at being painted that way. Long hours in the office, after-hours networking and early business breakfasts leave little opportunity to interact with children.

There are simply not enough hours left in the day to learn how to care for the baby, play board games or help with homework.

Sadly, the latest gadget-packed mobile phone or electronic games console tends to be impersonal compensation for missed interaction.

There is no argument about the pressures. But Mr Tsang's fond memories of regular bonding time with a policeman whom he remembers as a strict but loving father to him and his four brothers and sisters should inspire men to balance the important things in their lives.

They are appreciated and needed more than they know.

A contributor to our Living page today puts a woman's perspective on the chief executive's recollections.

She remembers the adoration of a little girl for an enthusiastic father, the problematic relationship of later years when she realised he was not perfect, the long talks when he was recovering from multiple surgery and the reconnection with him when she experienced the challenges and frustrations of parenthood herself.

Grateful for a job well done, she wishes him a happy Father's Day.

And so say all of us to all of you.