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City Weekend

Why no Mother’s Day card won’t bother this Hong Kong woman on Sunday – or at any other time

Yau Kwan-ying has raised two sons with mild intellectual disability and although there will be no presents from them on Sunday, she still feels nothing less than special

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 May, 2018, 11:03am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 May, 2018, 11:02am

Over the years, Yau Kwan-ying has mastered the art of saving time. To make sure she gets a good six hours of sleep, not only does the 63-year-old go to bed early, she often sleeps in tomorrow’s clean clothes.

Since becoming a mother almost 35 years ago, she has never had the luxury of sleeping in. This is all for her two sons, who both have a mild intellectual disability, which affects their capacity to understand, interpret, solve problems and think.

It’s been rough for her. Every morning, she gets up at the crack of dawn to prepare breakfast for the pair, pick their outfits for the day, get them out of bed, push them to get ready by 9.30am so they will make it on time to the Hong Kong Christian Service On Wah Day Activity Centre, where they receive rehabilitation services from 10am to 4pm on weekdays.

After dropping the two off at the centre in Ngau Tau Kok, she then heads to the wet market to pick out dinner for the family of four, while her husband Lee, a bus driver, takes off for work.

But the sons – 34 and 32 – will probably never realise their mother has always had their best interests at heart.

“I will never find out because they can’t express themselves,” she explains.

For many, Mother’s Day is a chance to relax and feel pampered – but not for Yau. None of that matters, though.

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“I am not doing it for their appreciation, I know they don’t understand what that is. I have learned to live with the fact that their conditions are not something that can be cured but I want them to live a life as normal as possible, whatever it takes.”

On Sunday there won’t be presents or breakfast in bed for this mother.

“I will probably go to the shop to buy a cake then let them know today is the day to celebrate me.”

I don’t care what others think of my children, they can think they’re insane for all I care
Yau Kwan-ying, mother of two sons with intellectual disabilities

“My husband and I were given this life for a reason. Maybe God thought they would be best fitted in our family and that I have the ability to take care of the boys so I have this mission to do so for as long as I am alive,” says Yau, who believes her sons are in good hands.

“At first, no one recognised the conditions. We got no answers even after multiple doctor visits so we just thought they were slow learners.”

She recalls realising her older son, Lee Yun-sang, was cluttering – a rapid and erratic rate of speech that may come out without proper pronunciation. The parents, who ruled out autism, also noted that the boy was significantly falling behind in his schooling once he reached Primary One, where he was only getting the hang of the alphabet at the age of six.

By that time Yau had already had her second child, Lee Chun-to.

“We thought that if the older boy was going through mental problems we better get the younger brother checked too and sure enough.”

Had it not been for her family and husband, Yau might have given up a long time ago.

“I once apologised to my parents-in-law because I somehow blamed myself for my sons’ stunted brain development but they responded by saying the pair were their grandchildren and that they would forever love them,” Yau says with tears rolling down her cheeks.

Hearing that, she finally was at peace with herself.

“My kids are my pride,” she adds. “I don’t care what others think of my children. They can think they’re insane for all I care and I know some people do think that.”

Yau says she has received dirty looks from people often.

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“Most put the blame on me for not training my sons to be more well-mannered, when in fact I do teach them to be polite and stay calm in situations. They are not behaving this way because they choose to, they are just born this way,” she explains.

“Regardless, I smile and nod during these encounters, sometimes I become apologetic too if the other person really feels uncomfortable. I never get verbal because they just don’t know better and their lack of knowledge on intellectual disabilities is the least of my concern.”

The prejudice of others has not scared the family from being seen publicly.

“I don’t want them to feel ashamed because of their conditions. I tell them, they just developed a little differently but that doesn’t make them any less of a human so we must be brave together to face the world.”

Every weekend, the family makes the best of their time together whether it’s at the park, the public swimming pool or a Chinese opera show. And the routine is no different this Mother’s Day.

“The boys have been my biggest support system and my only wish this Mother’s Day, or any other day, is for them to live happily and healthily.”