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Some people look back on their childhood as, ‘The best years of their
lives’. I, on the other hand, hated being a child because I always felt
caged and restrained.

I disliked having to ask for things. I especially disliked being told “No!”
without a logical or fair reason. I hated being told what to wear, when to
come home or where I could go. When I was very young I hated not being
able to reach things. I really hated sitting in the back seat of the car being
told to “Sit still and shut up!”  When visitors came we were sent outside to
play. We were usually sent to bed when we weren’t ready or tired.

One of my earliest childhood memories has me standing at the gate with
my mother’s voice calling from the house, “Sonya, don’t you leave the
yard will you?” I was about three years old and I was wondering why I
couldn’t go out of the gate.

My father and my big brother left every day. They both got to go out of
the gate, but I wasn’t allowed to. People walked past, stopped, said hello
and continued on. Everyone in the world seemed to be outside the gate
except me. I just knew that exciting things happened out there.

I had heard my father talk about work and my brother talk about school. I
had seen ladies pushing prams and carrying home shopping.  I had been
warned that bad things happen out there and, that someone might steal
me if I went out there.  I guess that I had been told that I would get lost
and not know how to get home, that cars might run over me, and that
dogs might bite me. I don’t know how I knew this, but I seemed to know it. I
also knew that I believed that it was a lie.

One day I did go out. I noticed that the neighbour’s fence led to a gate on
the other side of their yard.  I felt certain that if I kept my hand on the
fence I could walk as far as the gate at the far side without getting lost. I
played it over in my mind until I was sure that it was a good plan.  It
worked!  I went all the way to the other side, turned around, and with my
fingers lightly touching the fence palings, I made my way back.

I think that this memory has stayed with me all of these years as it was
probably one of the most significant days of my life. For me, it was the
day that I discovered that I was my own little entity. I discovered the
‘Nature of the Beast’ that I was to become.  I had discovered freedom of
choice and independence. It was probably also the day that my parents’
nightmares began.

My father used to refer to me as, “A bugger of a child”. I couldn’t wait to
get to school, yet by the third year I was pulled into the headmaster’s
office for truancy. I had my little sister and an older friend with me when
we were caught. My mother was embarrassed that my sister, who was
only six, was labelled the youngest kid to ever wag school. Not only did
that embarrass her, but she learned that we were all sitting at my friend’s
house with our faces covered in make-up, wearing high-heeled shoes
and smoking cigarettes.

By the time I reached high school, I had had enough. The teachers
considered me to be something of a delinquent and I thought that they
were ‘screwing with my mind’.  I had a smart mouth, a bad attitude and I
was headed for trouble.

My parents later confided that they thought that I would give them a
nervous breakdown. Honestly, I was a bugger of a kid, I was head strong
and rebellious. I challenged all forms of authority and I just would not
allow people, regardless of rank, to control me.

I used to lie in bed at night and say to my sister, “Who are these people?”
referring to our parents. My sister was my kindred spirit and I could tell
her anything however, my parents were a ‘Whole different kettle of fish’.
We decided that we had been adopted at birth and for the time being we
would just have to accept these ‘Aliens’ that we lived with.

I spent most of my adolescence screaming, “I just want to be free!” I often
ran away from home until the legal age of sixteen when I finally packed my
bags for the last time and left.

My father was scared and the more fear he had the more controlling he
became. The more controlling he became the more rebellious and
outrageous I became. My father believed effective parenting required
discipline. His idea of discipline was to belt me with a strap. He would yell
so loudly and angrily that the veins around his temples stood out, his face
became bright red and his eyes looked like those of a wild animal.  

I learned not to cry. Later I learned how to scream back and hit back. For
many years we were at war.

My father was not a bad guy. He was charming, gentle, talented and a lot
of fun. He did not drink, smoke or womanise. Most of the time, he was a
really likable person. I was not blameless either. I certainly provoked him
and definitely required some guidance. My father had a huge problem
with fear and stress that manifested itself as violence. For many years I
felt confused about this relationship, as it was both loving and violent.

A father-daughter relationship is extremely dynamic. It seems common
and understandable that many women marry men similar to their fathers.
It turned out to be very fortunate for me that I was rebellious, as I was
able to move on without any permanent damage. Neither my sister nor I
have ever been in violent relationships and we’ve never hit our children.

Miraculously I made it through childhood alive and intact. Adulthood
suited me so much better. Once I had my independence I managed to
level out. I had raced through my childhood trying to be older than I was.
But as we all learn when we get there, ‘Adulthood requires maturity and
experience’.  You really can’t just jump there.

Over the years, we re-grouped and became a close-knit family. Ironically,
my father and I had a lot in common when the playing field was level. By
the time he was forty; he gave up his stressed-out lifestyle, and bought a
farm on the North Coast. He found part-time work as a musician, joined a
church, remarried, and had a new family. In short, ‘He chilled out and
reinvented himself’.

Most of the time we all got along fine, but on occasion something would
come up and a button would be pushed. Many, many times I confronted
my father and demanded answers or apologies about something that I
remembered. I often brought up instances from my teen-age years and
with my articulate, sword-like tongue, I would slash him to pieces.
He would be mortified and deeply wounded.

We went on like this for a few years as we, ‘Work-shopped our
relationship’. The day did come when we had processed everything and
simply accepted that,
“We all did the best we could, and with the limited
knowledge that we had, in the time frame in which we lived”.
Or, as Oprah
Winfrey often quotes,
“If we had known better, we would have done
better".

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