Some lessons are learned the hard, painful way. And sometimes, one misstep could alter your life forever. Joan Leong explains, in this week’s Material Moms.
I recently found myself in a secret service-like operation that involved ex-FBI and special ops personnel, to locate and bring to safety a friend who was caught up in substance and physical abuse, whilst they were on holiday.
Donna (name changed to protect privacy) was having an affair with a much younger married man. They abused drugs and he abused her for putting up pictures of them on Facebook – they were supposed to be there for “work”, was their excuse. Her situation came to light after she continued posting pictures of her bashed up face on Facebook, all part of the drug-induced haze. This caused a worldwide frenzy amongst relatives, friends and colleagues.
The extraction was successful; we separated the pair and got her out on the next flight. When we received her at the airport, we were speechless at the condition she was in, even though we were very well aware of what had happened. Looking at her being pushed out in a wheelchair, swollen face, eyes circled by very angry and dark purple bruises, defensive bruises on her forearms, cuts on her knees that can only be caused by being dragged on broken glass on the floor… we were hit (excuse the pun) with the cold realisation that had we not done what we did, she would have died. Possibly from abuse, overdose, dehydration or even being mugged and left in a ditch for dead.
Did I also mention that Donna is in her forties and has two teenaged daughters?
And here’s the kicker: When she was about to be discharged from the hospital, she tried to put the bill on our company account despite us already fronting the cost of the extraction.
Fact or fiction? You decide for yourself. The point of the above account is a very important message that all parents should instill in their child while young.
When I was growing up, my father disciplined me with an iron fist. He told me that my main goal in life was to get a good education. He did not encourage play; watching television was a treat I savoured for an hour over the weekend.
“All it takes is one mistake to ruin your life forever”, he often said.
That being said, I was never one who was particularly fond of authority and rules I did not understand. Ironically, it was a trait I inherited from him too.
During my dad’s younger days, he decided when he wanted to go to school and when he did not want to anymore. He made up his own rules in life, and decided on the various levels of punishment towards the people whom he deemed miscreants (which included setting fire to the front of someone’s house once). Underneath all that, though, was a softie who often brought home strays, much to his mum’s chagrin – especially when she discovered a snake hanging off the windows.
It is with that same blend of personality traits that my dad ruled the family. He was tough as nails on discipline and education. He cultivated my type A personality (although I am nowhere near as perfect as him). He had (and still has) a way of doing things that he feels is the right way and we should just follow suit, so that we save time on trying to figure it out. We even had a dress code.
But he also loved us fiercely. Everything he did, was to make sure that we were comfortably provided for. Despite his crazy youth, he became a successful businessman. He never indulged us with luxury goods, but anything I wanted or needed in life that he felt would be a useful tool in our pursuit for education and self-fulfilment, he provided. He still does, even to this day.
Most importantly, he brought us up with an in-built ethic and moral code. We were not angels; we definitely toed the line and pushed boundaries. But ultimately, we also knew where our limits were. My sisters and I just knew when enough was enough, when taking one step further would make a mistake big enough that would change our lives forever.
I have made various mistakes in life, big or small, and I am lucky that I have been able to recover from them. He taught me to believe that I am the master of my own fate – I am never a victim of circumstance and whatever path I take in life, is my choice. Therefore getting out of trouble was also my own choice.
For that, I am eternally grateful because his discipline, however much I hated it while growing up, has kept me safe thus far.
And it is with this discipline (with some adjustments) that I will bring my daughter up to keep her safe while she trundles through the various adventures along the way.
Joan Leong is a mummy, reality television producer and photographer. She watches an insane amount of dramas and comedies in her spare time. Her idea of taking a break is undisturbed time in the plane where there is no network access. She gets very excited over handbags as well as the next big gadget. Her life and photographs can be found on www.valska.com.