Kaini Zhang, a quadriplegic in Singapore, was married with two children when she broke her neck in a car accident. “My first concern was my children,” she shared. Her oldest daughter was 3 years old and her younger daughter had only been born 5 months before. “I thought there was no way for me to take care of the children.” She stayed in the hospital for six months, but her daughters weren’t able to visit until she was transitioning home. “They were not really used to having me around,” she shared. “Especially for my younger daughter, she treated me like a stranger.”
Building a relationship from the ground up
Kaini was motivated to build a closer relationship with her girls. She found ways to be involved. “I tried to invent some games to play with them,” she shared. “I cannot hold their hands or teach them how to do things or play in the garden, so I felt I needed to do something to have some interaction with them to make them feel like they have a mother around.”
It wasn’t always easy. “I was worried they were ashamed of my condition or that they wouldn’t want their friends to know their mom was paralyzed.” Kaini was proactive to avoid any issues by communicating with her daughters. “I constantly talked to them, even since they were little. I tell them even though I’m paralyzed, I still love them with all my heart and I will do anything to make sure they will grow up healthily. I make them feel that they have nothing to be ashamed of having a paralyzed parent. The physical condition is not a problem, it’s the heart that matters.”
“No matter what happened to me, I’m going to bring up my children like any normal parent. I’m going to educate them, going to teach them well, take care of them, be their mentor, be their role model, not only teach them to study or work, but also teach them to have a stronger heart, so that in the future if they have some difficulty in their life, they can accept any challenge.”
Having a positive influence on other parents
She’s gotten positive reinforcement that her parenting strategy is working. “They say they are very mature and confident,” she says about her daughters with pride. The two girls do very well in school, so well in fact, other mothers often ask how she does it. “They sometimes will treat me as a counselor or mentor when they have trouble with their children.” Kaini helps them understand communicating with kids and being a supportive parent. This is beneficial because “other parents notice that even though I’m in a wheelchair, my children can perform well.”
However, she still faces challenges that limit what she can do. “Sometimes my children got some extra class, they don’t have someone to fetch them, I also cannot go fetch them. My injury level is quite high, so I need to use a special wheelchair. It’s not able to be put into taxi or any normal car, so I need special transport to go to places.” These limitations can be frustrating, but do not impact Kaini’s ability to be an active mother.
“You must be confident. You must believe in yourself. If you look down on yourself, your children will look down on you.”
Her girls are growing up fast, and she’s just as involved and still relies on healthy communication in their home. “For me, my favorite activity is now my afternoon tea. I call it ‘Girls Talk’, where every week or few days we’ll have a talking session, just the three of us. We share what’s going on and talk. They always share their lives with me.”
“Whether it’s people with disabilities or people who are able, you are your children’s role model and children are watching you. Don’t forget that. How you want your children to be, you have to do it first and show them.”
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