By all accounts I didn’t really have a conventional up-bringing. For starters I was a late arrival – an afterthought. My Mum was almost 39 when I was born and my Dad was 46. I also had a sister who was 18 (and thought it was disgusting that Mum and Dad were still ‘doing it’ at their age) and a sister who was 12 at the time of my arrival.
Don’t get me wrong, I know I was loved, but I also know that I was a nuisance and I was often told this as a child. As a consequence I got left – a lot. I grew up on a farm in rural N.S.W. We were about 45 kilometres from the nearest town – a long way in those days and it was almost 20 kilometres to the main road where the school bus stopped. I started my schooling doing correspondence. After 2 years of Mum teaching me – not very successfully I might add as I was a very strong-willed child I was sent to board with another family in the nearest town. I was 7 at the time. Mum was promised that I would have my own bed but this turned out to be a camp stretcher on the floor in between the other 2 girls beds. I was also expected to fold it out on my own at night and pack it away again the next morning. The family also had 2 boys so that was 5 kids in total – something I definitely wasn’t used to.
Then there was the food! Even though I was a fussy eater my Mum was a great cook and we always had fresh home killed lamb to eat and she always made cakes, biscuits and desserts for us. The lady I was sent to live with cooked sausages every night and made our school sandwiches the night before and put them in the fridge wrapped in grease proof paper so they were stale by the next day plus they only had Vegemite, tomato sauce or hundreds and thousands on them.
I think I was there for about 2 weeks before I ran away. I didn’t mean to run away – I just wanted to see my friend on the bus and then I was going to get off and walk home but the bus went a different way that day so I was stuck on it. It did show Mum how unhappy I was and she found another family for me to live with during the week and I lived with them for about 3 years.
I came back and lived on the farm with Mum and Dad for my last 2 years of primary school as by then there were other kids that lived on our road so the trips to the bus stop could be shared.
Come time for high school I was sent to boarding school in Sydney where I stayed for the next 3 years. During that time my Dad had a major heart attack and the farm was sold and Mum and Dad retired to another country town closer to Sydney. It was decided that I would come home from boarding school and go to school locally. However the year I did that Mum and Dad decided to go overseas for 3 months and I was left with the next door neighbours. I was 16. I can remember them telling Mum that I was going to be ‘trouble’ because I had gone on a school organised trip to motor cycle races at Oran Park near Sydney!
By the time Mum and Dad came home I had well and truly established my independence and never really abided by their rules again after that. Somehow I managed to keep out of any major trouble and finished high school. I worked a series of jobs in my ‘gap year’, sometimes 3 different places in one day, before getting the call to go into the Police Academy.
I have come to terms with the fact that I was pretty much ‘dumped’ as a child but know now that my parents probably did have my best interests at heart and that my unconventional up bringing has made me the strong person I am today. Probably because of my childhood experiences I have never really left my kids with anyone, but at least I can say I have always been there for them when they’ve needed me.